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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Paul D Quay
OCEAN 583
Seattle Campus

Isotope Biogeochemistry

The use of stable isotopes to study biogeochemical cycles in the oceans and atmosphere; specifically carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles. Isotopic effects during photosynthesis, respiration, organic matter degradation. CaCO3 dissolution, methanogenesis, nitrification/denitrification, and sulfate reduction. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Class description

The objective of this course is to familiarize students with isotopic methods that can improve our understanding of the earth's major biogeochemical cycles. Specifically, we will focus on the water, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen cycles at local and global scales and on food webs. Initially, the basic characteristics of isotopic fractionations, notation, and mass spectrometric measurement are discussed. The students will learn how to be quantitative with isotopic data through biweekly problem sets that stress mass and isotope budgets. Knowledge of Excel and/or Matlab will be necessary. Usually the students have the opportunity to prepare an NSF type proposal or make an oral presentation on a topic of their choice that involves isotopic data.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lectures twice a week and paper discussions. Biweekly or so quantitative problem sets. An oral presentation plus written report on a topic of students choice.

Recommended preparation

Students should be familiar with a spreadsheet program like Excel or a programming package like Matlab to answer problem sets. Required mathematical skill level is fairly basic.

Class assignments and grading

Biweekly problem sets that are quantitative.

Grades are based on midterm, problem sets, and an oral or written presentation.


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 Paul D Quay
Date: 01/02/2007