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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Gabrielle L. Rocap
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

In the first few weeks of this course, we will explore the different size and functional classes of organisms that dwell in the upper reaches of the ocean, with an emphasis on the dominant forms of phytoplankton, viruses, bacterioplankton and archaeoplankton, 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 benthos and greater depths of the ocean, with an emphasis on extreme environments. We will also examine the potential influence of climate change and other perturbations on different oceanic ecosystems, with an emphasis on the coastal ocean.

Student learning goals

Understand 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

Be familiar with the basic sampling strategies and experimental methodologies used to study life in the ocean

General method of instruction

Information will be provided via lecture format, with hard-copy handouts, during two of three class meetings per week. The third class period will include both lectures and in class lab activities, problem solving, or paper discussions, designed to complement material covered in the lectures.

Recommended preparation

The best-prepared students for this course will have backgrounds in the physics and chemistry of the ocean (OCEAN 210 is required) and the fundamentals of biology (BIOL 162 or 220 is required). Contact the instructor 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

Assignments will include readings from the required textbook on Biological Oceanography written by Lalli & Parsons and from selected research papers. During the first half of the course, four problem sets will be assigned (at weekly intervals) as homework; during the latter half, four homework assignments will include problems as well as written answers to a set of questions on a specific research paper to be discussed in class. Two in-class written exams will be given, a mid-term exam and a cumulative final exam. They will take the form of brief written answers to a series of questions posed about graphical data (taken from the textbook or other provided resources) and hypothetical scenarios.

Homework assignments= 40% Participation in lab activities and discussions= 10% Mid-term exam = 20% Final exam = 30%


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.
Course Web Site
Last Update by Gabrielle L. Rocap
Date: 09/28/2008