Estuaries and Pollution

Brad Hubeny,
Salem State University


Estuaries are coastal water bodies that have large economic, ecologic, and aesthetic value, however many are currently being adversely affected by human actions. This class is designed to introduce the dynamics of estuaries in order to understand the interactions between the geosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere in these coastal water bodies. These systems will be investigated with regard to current natural and human influences on New England's estuaries. A field trip will be offered to expose students to environments discussed in class. Three lecture hours per week.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Integrated lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is a mid-level elective course for Geological Sciences majors. In addition, typically ~25% of the students have non-geology majors, but an interest in environmental science.

Course Content:

This is a Geological Sciences course that focuses on coastal oceanography, sedimentation, and human influences upon these environments. The course is broken up into an Estuarine Oceanography component and an Estuarine Pollution component. It is a three-credit course without an official lab, however I require multiple field trips and I use an activity focused approach to the content.

Course Goals:

After completing this course students will be able to
  • synthesize processes specific to estuarine environments
  • explain interactions and feedbacks between different estuarine systems
  • predict environmental effects of natural and anthropogenic actions in estuaries
  • understand the science needed to make informed decisions regarding management of estuaries

Course Features:

I attempt to lecture for a minimum amount of class time, and focus rather on activity and project learning. We typically have a lab-type activity every second class that is designed to be hypothesis driven for the students as they work in groups. Multiple field trips expose students to the field components of the discipline, and a final poster session highlighting student research on contaminated estuaries.

Course Philosophy:

I feel very comfortable in a student-driven activity based classroom. As an elective course, I have the luxury of focusing on concept and process as opposed to material.


I correct all class activities, have two exams, and assess their poster presentations.


"Estuaries and Pollution" syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 37kB Jun9 14)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Waves, Tides and Shallow-Water Processes, Second Edition [Paperback] Open University (Author), Gerry Bearman (Editor); also Marine Pollution [Paperback] R. B. Clark (Author)
These two texts are really the only texts that adequately address the topics of the course (at least that I have found).

I incorporate a few peer-reviewed journal articles each semester, and these rotate based on new research, the direction of the particular class, and the students' and my interest at the time.