GEOL 3070 / ATOC 3070

Introduction to Oceanography

Syllabus - Spring 2016

black smoker R/V Knorr deep-sea anglerfish

Current ocean conditions animation
WHOI Image of the Day

Desire2Learn course page contains homework assignments, grades, and announcements. That's also where you'll find the login and password for links on this page.

Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 am - 12:15 pm, Benson 180
Professor: Tom Marchitto,
Professor office hours: Tuesdays 2-3:30 pm unless otherwise noted here, Benson 435
Part-time Grader: Derek Weller

Course description: Investigates the broad-scale features and dynamics of the Earth's oceans. The course is roughly divided amongst the four main disciplines of oceanography: marine geology, marine chemistry, physical oceanography (i.e., circulation), and marine biology. Students will learn that there is much overlap and interdependence between these disciplines. Specific topics include seafloor spreading, marine sediments, salinity, biogeochemical cycles, ocean structure, currents, waves, tides, primary production, marine ecology, climate change, and much more.

Prerequisites: any two-course sequence of natural science core courses
Expectations: comfort with scientific thinking, spatial visualization, simple mathematic equations (algebra), chemical notation, and basic computer skills
Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: natural science (3 credits)
Does not count toward the upper level elective requirement for GEOL majors

Required textbook: Segar, Introduction to Ocean Sciences. Readings are best done before the lecture they are listed with, so that you can get more out of the lecture and score better on clicker questions. Just read the sections corresponding to the Headings below; refer to the Table of Contents in the Chapter 1 pdf to find page numbers (I don't list page numbers because they change from year to year as the book is updated). This text is open source, meaning that it is available as pdf for FREE. The author, Doug Segar, therefore relies on small donations to keep this resource updated and available. Considering that intro oceanography textbooks normally cost in the neighborhood of $200, please make a small donation to Segar through the text's website.

Learning goals (pdf): Far beyond memorizing facts and figures, a good education in oceanography should allow you to explain and illustrate concepts, interpret data, and make predictions. This pdf lists some of the things that you should be able to do during and after taking this course. It is organized around 21 fundamental concepts that form the core of the science that you must learn in order to understand the basic processes operating in the oceans. Many of these topics are also highlighted as 'Critical Concepts' in Segar's textbook (listed after his Chapter 16, and cross-referenced on my pdf). This list of Learning Goals by no means covers everything that you are expected to learn, but rather forms a foundation of fundamental principles and ideas. Some of the concepts will probably be familiar to you, but perhaps their application to oceanography will be new. You will find that many of the concepts are applicable to multiple aspects of oceanography (and to other sciences), and will appear repeatedly during the course. Concepts are listed in the order of their first major appearance.

Clickers: The use of iClickers (available at the CU Bookstore) is required and is intended to promote learning by providing a forum for you to learn from your peers. The clicker technology allows for the engagement of all students, encourages increased course-related communication between students, and facilitates the feedback loop between students and professor. Most lectures will require you to answer several questions using the clicker, typically on new concepts arising in class. You will receive two points for answering the question, plus (usually) one additional point for a correct answer. Your three lowest percentage clicker scores (i.e., from three class days) will be dropped from your final clicker score. This three class credit is intended to cover those days when your clicker is misplaced or out of order, and days when you cannot attend class for whatever reason. No other accommodations will be made. It is your responsibility to ensure that your clicker is registered and working properly. Clicker questions will start in lecture on Thursday of Week 1 and will begin counting toward your grade on Tuesday of Week 2.

Homework: Ten homework assignments will allow students to apply what they have learned in class to practical problems. These problem sets are not intended to simply prepare students for exams, but rather are intended to develop problem solving, quantitative, and writing skills that are not tested on exams. Some basic (high school level) math and critical thinking will therefore be required. Assignments are to be completed on-line through Desire2Learn, found under the Calendar or under Assessments/Quizzes. Late assignments will not be accepted. Computer or internet connection problems are not valid excuses for late assignments, so do not wait until the last minute.

Significant Digits and Unit Conversion Tutorial (pdf)

Exams: There will be three in-class midterm exams (20% each), but students may drop their lowest midterm grade. The final, which is cumulative, cannot be dropped. Exams will test students' understanding of oceanographic concepts and facts, and will be multiple choice. Exams missed due to illness may be made up only if a doctor's note is provided.

Grading: 25% homework, 40% midterm exams, 25% final exam, 10% clicker questions. Letter grades for exams will be based on class-wide curves, with a median of 80%. Homeworks and clicker questions will not be curved. Want to know what separates an "A" student from a "C" student? Have a look at this table of effective and ineffective learning behaviors.

Final Exam is Wednesday May 4, 1:30-4:00 pm, in Benson 180. Everyone must take the Final. See Registrar's policy on final exam conficts (three on same day).


Religious or other obligations: If you have any conflicts with scheduled exams because of religious or other obligations, please notify me at least two weeks in advance of the conflict to request special accommodation.

Disabilities: If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services within the first two weeks of class, so that your needs may be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities.

Note on academic honesty: Students are allowed to work together on homework problems, but are not allowed to simply copy each other's work or to copy material directly from the internet. Copying constitutes academic dishonesty under the CU Honor Code.


Class Schedule

click on lecture title for PowerPoint file (available after class, password-protected, password found on D2L)
Readings (just read the sections corresponding to the Headings below; refer to the Table of Contents in the Chapter 1 pdf to find page numbers)
and Interesting Links

T 1/12: Oceans and oceanography
world ocean, origin, history of oceanography, challenges
Ch. 1: How to Study Ocean Data; Ch. 2: Exploration and Mapping; Ch. 3: Difficulties of Studying the Ocean
HOV Alvin
Dive and Discover (WHOI)

Th 1/14: Ocean bathymetry
concept inventory, electromagnetic spectrum, sonar, Law of the Sea
Ch. 5: Transmission of Light; Transmission of Sound; Ch. 3: The Unseen Domain; Bathymetry; Ch. 2: National and International Law
Interactive global bathymetry (NOAA)
Law of the Sea (UN)

T 1/19: Ocean crust
layered Earth, ocean vs. continental crust, isostatic equilibrium
Ch. 4: Structure of the Earth; CC1 (Density); CC2 (Isostasy)
Interactive isostasy demo

Th 1/21: Plate tectonics
interior heat, convection, paleomag, hotspots
Ch. 4: Plate Tectonics; Hotspots; CC3 (Convection); CC7 (Radioactivity)
Hawaii Center for Volcanology
Plate motion from GPS (JPL)

T 1/26: Plate boundaries
mid-ocean ridges, subduction zones, transforms
Ch. 4: Plate Boundaries; Convergent Plate Boundaries; Divergent Plate Boundaries; Transform Faults
Plate boundaries map
Nautilus Minerals seafloor mining
James Cameron's trip to the Mariana Trench

Th 1/28: Marine sediments
sampling, sizes, Stokes Law, biogenic, terrigenous
Ch. 3: Seafloor Sediments; Ch. 6: Classification; Lithogenous; Biogenous; Transport, Deposition, & Accumulation; Distribution; Historical Record; CC4 (Particle Size)
LDEO Core Repository
WHOI Seafloor Samples Lab
Global core database (NOAA NGDC)

T 2/2: Physical properties of seawater
H-bonds, heat capacity, ice, density
Chapter 5: The Water Molecule; Surface Tension and Viscosity; Heat Properties of Water; Ice Formation; Effects of... on Seawater Density; CC5 (Heat); CC6 (Density)
Sea Ice (NSIDC)

Th 2/4: Earth's energy (im)balance
Greenhouse effect, ocean warming, sea ice loss
CC9 (Greenhouse Effect); CC10 (Modeling)
Global temperature trends (NASA GISS)
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Current CO2 concentrations animation

T 2/9: First Exam (covers 1/13-2/5, oceans to energy imbalance)

Th 2/11: Global atmospheric circulation
Coriolis effect, atmospheric cells, geostrophy
Ch. 7: Water Vapor; Water and Heat Budgets; Climatic Winds; CC12 (Coriolis); CC13 (Geostrophic Flow)
Incredible visualization tool for current global winds, currents, waves, etc.

T 2/16: Upper ocean circulation
current measurement, Ekman transport, gyres, ACC
Ch. 3: Chemical and Physical Oceanography/Measuring Currents; Ch. 8: Energy Sources; Wind-Driven Currents; Ekman Motion; Geostrophic Currents; Open-Ocean Surface Currents; High-Latitude Surface Currents; Eddies
Ocean Surface Currents (RSMAS)
Ocean Surface Current Analyses - Real time (NOAA/OSCAR)
Perpetual Ocean simulation (NASA video)

Th 2/18: Upwelling and El Nino
coastal and equatorial upwelling, ENSO dynamics
Ch. 8: Upwelling and Downwelling; Ch. 7: Interannual Climate Variations
Climate Prediction (NOAA)

T 2/23: Deep ocean circulation
density structure, T-S diagrams, thermohaline flow
Ch. 7: Climate and Ocean Surface; Ch. 8: Tracing Water Masses; Thermohaline Circulation; Ocean Circulation and Climate
Aquarius satellite salinity
Seawater density calculator

Th 2/25: Waves at sea
wave forces, deep vs. shallow, wind waves, sea state
Ch. 9: Complexity; Progressive Waves; What is Wave Motion?; Making Waves; Sea Development; Wave Dissipation; Deep-Water Waves
Real time significant wave height
Surfline wave forecasts
Beaufort Scale (wiki)

T 3/1: Waves at the shore
breaking, refraction, seiche, tsunami
Ch. 9: Waves in Shallow Water; Standing Waves; Tsunamis
Tsunami (NOAA)
2011 Honshu tsunami
2004 Sumatra-Andaman tsunami
1958 Lituya Bay tsunami

Th 3/3: Tides
Earth-moon-sun gravitation, amphidromic points
Ch. 10
NOAA tide predictions

T 3/8: Second Exam (covers 2/12-3/5, atmospheric circulation to tides)

Th 3/10: Coasts
wave erosion, sea level rise, storm surge, coastal engineering
Ch. 11: Processes; Beaches; Barrier Islands; Beaches and Human Structures; Ch. 4: Sea Level
Surging Seas (Climate Central)
Coastal County Snapshots (NOAA)
Post-Sandy Rebuild by Design

T 3/15: Chemistry of seawater
salinity, steady state, residence time, inputs, outputs
Ch. 3: Chemical and Physical Oceanography; Ch. 5: Dissolving Power; Sources and Sinks; Salinity; Dissolved Chemicals; CC8 (Residence Time)
Periodic table of the elements in the North Pacific
Periodic table of the elements in the ocean (MBARI)

Th 3/17: Ocean carbon and acidification
DIC, pH, air-sea CO2 flux, ocean acidification
Ocean Acidification Network

T 3/22, Th 3/24: Spring Break

T 3/29: Life in the sea
taxonomy, habitat & mobility, adaptations
Ch. 3: Living Organisms; Ch. 12: How de we Describe Life?; Plankton: Bacteria and Archaea; Ch. 14: Habitats; Selected Adaptations in Fishes
Census of Marine Life

Th 3/31: Biogeochemical cycles
photosynthesis, respiration, Redfield ratios, energy & mass transfer
Ch. 12: Production; Microbes; Photosynthetic Primary Production; Primary Production and Nutrients; Food Webs; Dissolved Oxygen; CC15 (Food Chain Efficiency); CC14 (Photosynthesis)
Global Plankton Database
If you love this stuff and are a good student, this is the course for you

T 4/5: Marine pollution
Deepwater Horizon, toxicity, plastics
Ch. 16; CC18 (Toxicity)
WHOI Deepwater Horizon response
Plastics at SEA

Th 4/7: Primary producers
production, phytoplankton, seaweeds, limitation, eutrophication
Ch. 12: Geographic Variation; Plankton: Phytoplankton

T 4/12: Third Exam (covers 3/12-4/9, coasts to primary producers)

Th 4/14: Marine invertebrates
poriferans, cnidarians, coral reefs, molluscs, arthropods, echinoderms
Ch. 12: Plankton: Zooplankton; Nekton: Squid; Ch. 15: Coral Reefs
NOAA Coral Reef Information System

T 4/19: Marine ecology
feeding, hunting and defense, reproduction, associations, senses
Ch. 14: Feeding; Hunting and Defense; Reproduction; Associations; Communication and Navigation

Th 4/21: Fishes and fisheries
fish classes, deep sea fishes, maximum sustainable yield, bycatch
Ch. 12: Nekton: Bony Fishes; Sharks and Rays; Ch. 13: Fisheries; CC16 (Maximum Sustainable Yield)
Global Fishing Watch
MBARI Seafood Watch

T 4/26: Marine mammals
adaptations, toothed whales, baleen whales, whaling, sound pollution
Ch. 12: Nekton: Marine Mammals
NG Marine noise pollution

Th 4/28: Wrap-up
concept inventory, the future
Bureau of Ocean Energy: Renewables
Marine Pharmaceuticals
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

W 5/4 (1:30-4:00 pm): Final Exam (covers entire course, with ~40% on material after the third midterm exam)