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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Robert Morris
OCEAN 430
Seattle Campus

Biological Oceanography

Examines marine organisms, their quantitative distribution in time and space, and their interactions with the ocean. Emphasizes dominant pelagic forms of phytoplankton, bacterioplankton, and archaeoplankton; and their predators, viruses, and zooplankton. Case studies explore extreme environments, coral reefs, influence of climate change on oceanic ecosystems, and the coastal ocean. Prerequisite: BIOL 200; OCEAN 210; recommended: BIOL 220. Offered: A.

Class description

Biological oceanography is the study of marine organisms, their quantitative distribution in time and space and their interactions with the ocean. In the first few weeks of this course, we will explore the different size and functional classes of organisms that dwell in the upper ocean, with an emphasis on the dominant forms of phytoplankton, viruses, bacteria and archaea, and their grazers, the zooplankton. We will examine factors controlling the distribution and abundance of marine organisms, and analyze some interactions of organisms with each other and with their environment. In the latter half of the course, we will explore the deep ocean and interactions between the surface and deep ocean. We will also examine the influence of climate change and other perturbations on different oceanic ecosystems.

Student learning goals

Describe how organisms and the structure of marine ecosystems influence the fate of carbon and other elements in the ocean

Distinguish the implications of the rates of biological processes from those of the abundance of the organisms driving those processes

Recognize the evolutionary basis for the diversity of form and function in marine organisms

Identify and explain biological patterns in space and time on a variety of scales

Interpret graphical data for a wide range of biological patterns and activities in the ocean, in advance of generating your own data in future courses and endeavors

Describe and compare the advantages and disadvantages of the basic sampling strategies and experimental methodologies used to study life in the ocean

General method of instruction

This is a 4 credit course, which means you should expect to spend ~ 12 hours per week on it. We have 5 hours of class meeting time scheduled weekly. We will spend 2 hours per week on lectures (Monday and Wednesday), one hour per week to answer questions about lectures and problem sets (Tuesday), and the 2 hour for group problem solving activities or paper discussions (Thursday). We estimate that you will spend 1-2 hours doing the assigned reading and 5-6 hours working on problem sets each week. Lectures will be guided by power point slides, but will involve chalk board discussions and class participation. A copy of the basic elements of the lecture slides will be provided on the website before each lecture (without notes). You may print these slides and bring them to class to help guide you through the lecture and for notes.

Recommended preparation

Students should have backgrounds in ocean physics and chemistry (OCEAN 210 is required) and in biology (BIOL 162 or 200 is required). Contact the instructors to discuss taking the course if your background coursework does not include these requirements; alternatives such as OCN 200, OCN 250 or BIOL 180 may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

Class assignments and grading

Your grade in this course will depend in your performance on two types of intellectual exercises (Problem Sets and Exams) and your participation in class (in group activities and class discussions).

Problem Sets (PS) 40% (Best 6 out of 7) Midterm 20% Cumulative Final Exam 30% Participation 10%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Robert Morris
Date: 09/30/2010