The Ocean Environment

Leah May Ver,
Dept of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia


The Ocean Environment, EOSC 314 is taught year-round as a face-to-face course (Fall and Summer terms) and as a distance education course (Fall, Spring, and Summer terms). It is an introductory course for non-science students. The course involves lectures, graded discussions, a group project, quizzes, and a final exam. In learning about the evolution of the ocean and how the geological, physical, biological and chemical factors interact to drive the oceanic system, students use concepts of process rates, residence times, and time/space scales.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Online course

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

Students must have 2nd-year standing to register for this course. No background in Science or Mathematics is required. Not for credit in the Faculties of Science or Applied Science.
All the students in this course take it as an elective to satisfy the requirement for an upper-level non-laboratory science course.

Course Content:

An introduction to the oceans and the processes that have shaped them, their composition and movement, waves, tides, beaches, interactions with the atmosphere and human exploitation of the non-living resources.

Course Goals:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:
--EXPLAIN observations of the oceans in terms of interacting geological, physical, biological, and chemical processes.
--RECOGNIZE the complex links among processes on land, ocean, atmosphere, and sediments.
--EXPLAIN how interactions between the ocean and atmosphere influence Earth's climate.
--APPLY an evidence-based, logical, scientific approach to the inquiry and response to questions about the oceanic environment.
--EVALUATE ocean science-related issues faced outside the academe on the basis of evidence presented and knowledge of oceanic processes.
--ARTICULATE the relevance of ocean science to individuals and to society.

Course Features:

One key feature of this course is a 2-week reading/writing project where students read a scientific article on a chosen oceanography issue, analyze the paper from the viewpoint of an informed non-science perspective, then write a 3-5 paged paper based on the analysis.
The lead-up activities to this project are graded discussions where students discuss, as a class or in smaller groups, oceanographic issues that concern the general public (for example, the water crisis, Canada's role in the development of the Arctic Ocean, ocean acidification, etc).

Course Philosophy:

In teaching about rates and time, I use the standard lecture/reading approach. Within the lectures, we use analogies, do some practice calculations, and discuss scenarios. These are the methods that I believe are successful; I'm satisfied with the outcomes based on the quizzes and final exam. I do realize that these methods may not be effective for all the students, which is why I would like to learn from others!


The students are assessed in graded discussions, quizzes, a final exam, and a graded paper.


Teaching Materials:

EOSC 314 - The Ocean Environment (Acrobat (PDF) 42kB Feb26 12)

References and Notes:

Essentials of Oceanography by Trujillo and Thurman