Essentials of Oceanography/lab

Judy Robinson

Nova Southeastern University,
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


This introductory course for the marine biology major exposes students to basic principles of physical, chemical and geological oceanography. This course should help students to achieve a greater understanding of the ocean, its processes and its impact on the biology of the ocean. Information to be covered:
  • Formation and structure of ocean basins (plate tectonics, continental margins, deep abyssal plains, ridges and trenches;
  • Geochemistry of seawater (physical properties of water, salinity, identification of water masses based on density, the physical description of ocean surface (waves, and tides),
  • General oceanic circulation patterns (fluxes of energy at the ocean-atmosphere interface, drift and geostrophic currents, thermohaline circulation);
  • Air-sea interaction (Coriolis-effect, oceanic heat flow and atmospheric circulation)
  • Biological oceanic populations as a function of diverse physico-chemical variables (dissolved and particulate matter, nutrient cycles, particulate fluxes and marine sedimentation);
  • Theoretical aspects of oceanography will be followed by regional case studies of coastal systems and an introduction to the state of the environment in the Oceans (i.e. sea level rise, contamination, oil spills, fisheries exploitation).

Course Size:

Course Context:

This course functions as a complementary course to Marine Biology. This is a lower level oceanography course with prerequisties of any two-course sequence of natural science core courses.This course equates to three (3) lecture hours and a 2hr and 15 min required laboratory per week as well as a two-day field trip.

Course Goals:

  • Students should be able to interpret and evaluate the work of scientists who have contributed to our understanding of oceanography through history.
  • Students should be able to illustrate and identify the major currents of the world's oceans.
  • Students should be able to interpret atmospheric and oceanic circulation systems as well as analyze their interconnections and driving forces on major Earth processes, such as atmospheric and oceanic circulation, climate and weather, plate tectonics.
  • Students should be able to evaluate the principles involved in the generation of waves and tides and their effects on coastal processes and marine ecosystems.
  • Students should be able to interpret how physical, chemical, geological and biological processes effect the distribution and function of marine organisms in the ocean.
  • Students should be able to construct scenarios of a rise in sea-level, contamination or exploitation on coastal zones as well as formulate possible mitigation and adaptation strategies.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

A primary emphasis of this course is to develop science literacy through topics organized around basic aspects of oceanography: ocean basins and plate tectonics, shallow and deep ocean circulation, waves and tides, marine biology and ecology, marine sediments, chemistry of seawater and environmental oceanography. Most of the class meetings will be devoted to the main lectures while designated times will be used for various activities, such as student scenario discussions and debates on important events or issues related to the oceans, lab sessions with reports, writing assignments with rubrics and feedback.

Skills Goals

Develop skills to search, retrieve and understand scientific literature information about oceanography through the use the Internet and library resources.

This course gives an overview of the science of oceanography and how it is practiced through integrating specific concepts of oceanography while addressing contemporary issues of the ocean environment and its affect on students' present and future life and the world economy.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Produce laboratory reports that demonstrate an understanding of the scientific method, basic statistical analyses, and the ability to read and interpret data. Develop skills to search and retrieve scientific literature information about oceanography through the use the Internet and library resources.


  1. Exams; Three unit exams will cover the chapters indicated and will be given during an entire class period (50 minutes). Each exam will consist of approximately 25 questions including a variety of fill in the blanks, short answer and essay questions.
  2. Quizzes; Four scheduled quizzes will be given during the first 20 minutes of class on the scheduled dates. Quizzes may consist of a variety of fill in the blank, short answer, multiple choice and matching style questions.
  3. Final Exam: The Final Exam will be cumulative and will cover material from the entire course. Emphasis will be placed on material covered in previous exams.
  4. Laboratory Reports and Notebook: The underpinning of the lab notebook is a lab report and questionnaire of the experimental lab exercises. Notebooks will be reviewed during and at the end of the semester and graded based on completeness and quality of content. A laboratory report will be completed for each lab and placed in lab notebook.


Essentials of Oceanography/lab (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 147kB May31 13)