GEOL 3070 / ATOC 3070

Introduction to Oceanography

Syllabus - Spring 2015

black smoker R/V Knorr deep-sea anglerfish

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: TBA
Grader office hours: TBA

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)

Required textbook: Segar, Introduction to Ocean Sciences. 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 after taking this course. It is organized around 20 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 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 student learning by informing the professor about what the students are comprehending, and by providing a forum for students to learn from each other. 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 and quantitative 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. 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 Tuesday May 5, 4:30-7:00 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, Reading, and Interesting Links
click on lecture title for PowerPoint file (available after class, password-protected)
This is the schedule from 2014, which will be modified for 2015
Below readings refer to a different textbook, and will be updated for Segar

T 1/14: Oceans and oceanography
world ocean, origin, history of oceanography, challenges
8th: 1.1-1.2; 1.4-1.5; 1.7; 2.3-2.5
7th: 1.1-1.2; 1.4-1.5; 1.7; 2.2-2.4
HOV Alvin
WHOI Dive and Discover

Th 1/16: Ocean bathymetry
concept inventory, electromagnetic spectrum, sonar, Law of the Sea
8th: 6.8-6.9; 4.1; 17.6
7th: 6.7-6.8; 4.1; 17.6
NOAA Interactive global bathymetry
United Nations Law of the Sea

T 1/21: Ocean crust
layered Earth, ocean vs. continental crust, isostatic equilibrium
8th: 3.2-3.4; 4.2-4.3
7th: 3.2-3.4; 4.2-4.3
Interactive isostasy demo

Th 1/23: Plate tectonics
interior heat, convection, paleomag, hotspots
8th: 3.1; 3.5-3.7; 3.10-3.11
7th: 3.1; 3.5-3.7; 3.10-3.11
JPL Plate motion from GPS

T 1/28: Plate boundaries
mid-ocean ridges, subduction zones, transforms
8th: 3.8-3.9; 4.4-4.5
7th: 3.8-3.9; 4.4-4.5
Plate boundaries map
Nautilus Minerals seafloor mining
James Cameron's trip to the Mariana Trench

Th 1/30: Marine sediments
sampling, sizes, Stokes Law, biogenic, terrigenous
8th: 5.1-5.7
7th: 5.1-5.6
LDEO Core Repository
WHOI Seafloor Samples Lab
NGDC Core Database

T 2/4: Physical properties of seawater
H-bonds, heat capacity, ice, density
8th: 6.1-6.5
7th: 6.1-6.4

Th 2/6: Earth's energy (im)balance
Greenhouse effect, ocean warming, sea ice loss
8th: 18.5-18.6
7th: 18.5-18.6
GISS temperature trends
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

T 2/11: First Exam (covers 1/14-2/6, oceans to energy imbalance)

Th 2/13: Global atmospheric circulation
Coriolis effect, atmospheric cells, geostrophy
8th: 8.3-8.4
7th: 8.3-8.4

T 2/18: Upper ocean circulation
current measurement, Ekman transport, gyres, ACC
8th: 9.1-9.3
7th: 9.7; 9.1-9.3
RSMAS Ocean Surface Currents
NOAA Ocean Surface Current Analyses - Real time (OSCAR)
NASA Perpetual Ocean simulation (video)

Th 2/20: Upwelling and El Nino
coastal and equatorial upwelling, ENSO dynamics
8th: 9.4-9.5
7th: 9.4-9.5
IRI's ENSO page
NOAA Climate Prediction

T 2/25: Deep ocean circulation
density structure, T-S diagrams, thermohaline flow
8th: 6.6; 9.6
7th: 6.5; 9.6
Aquarius satellite salinity
Seawater density calculator

Th 2/27: Waves at sea
wave forces, deep vs. shallow, wind waves, sea state
8th: 10.1-10.5
7th: 10.1-10.5
Beaufort Scale (wiki)

T 3/4: Waves at the shore
breaking, refraction, seiche, tsunami
8th: 10.6; 10.10-10.11
7th: 10.6; 10.10-10.11
NOAA tsunami page
2011 Honshu tsunami
2004 Sumatra-Andaman tsunami
1958 Lituya Bay tsunami

Th 3/6: Tides
Earth-moon-sun gravitation, amphidromic points
8th: 11.1-11.6
7th: 11.1-11.6
NOAA tide predictions

T 3/11: Second Exam (covers 2/13-3/6, atmospheric circulation to tides)

Th 3/13: Coasts
wave erosion, sea level rise, storm surge, coastal engineering
8th: 12.1-12.4; 10.9; 12.8
7th: 12.1-12.4; 10.9; 12.8
Hurricane Sandy lessons

T 3/18: Chemistry of seawater
salinity, steady state, residence time, inputs, outputs
8th: 7.1-7.2; 17.2 Salts to FreshWater
7th: 7.1-7.2; 17.2 Mg to Fresh Water
Periodic table of the elements in the North Pacific
MBARI periodic table of the elements in the ocean

Th 3/20: Ocean carbon and acidification
DIC, pH, air-sea CO2 flux, ocean acidification
8th: 7.3-7.4; 13.7 Carbon Cycle
7th: 7.3-7.4; 13.5 Carbon Cycle
Ocean Acidification Network

T 3/25, Th 3/27: Spring Break

T 4/1: Life in the sea
taxonomy, habitat & mobility, adaptations for ocean conditions
8th: 13.3; Appendix VI; 13.8; 15.8
7th: 13.9; Appendix VIII; 13.6; 15.8
Census of Marine Life

Th 4/3: Biogeochemical cycles
photosynthesis, respiration, Redfield ratios, oxygen
8th: 13.4-13.7
7th: 13.1-13.5
If you love this stuff and are a good student, this is the course for you

T 4/8: Marine pollution
Deepwater Horizon, toxicity, plastics
8th: 17.2 Petroleum; 18.1-18.2
7th: 17.2 Petroleum; 18.1-18.2
WHOI Deepwater Horizon response
Plastics at SEA

Th 4/10: Lecture cancelled Primary producers
production, phytoplankton, seaweeds, limitation, eutrophication
8th: 14.1-14.7; 14.9
7th: 14.1-14.7; 14.9

T 4/15: Third Exam (covers 3/13-4/8, coasts to pollution)

Th 4/17: Invertebrate animals
energy & mass transfer, zooplankton, invertebrate phyla
8th: 14.8; 15.2-15.4
7th: 14.8; 15.2-15.4
Global Plankton Database

T 4/22: Benthic marine communities
ecology, rocky vs. sandy shores, coral reefs, chemosynthesis
8th: 16.1-16.4
7th: 16.1-16.4
NOAA Coral Reef Information System

Th 4/24: Fishes and fisheries
fish classes, deep sea fishes, maximum sustainable yield, bycatch
8th: 15.7; 17.4
7th: 15.7; 17.4
MBARI Seafood Watch

T 4/29: Marine mammals
adaptations, toothed whales, baleen whales, whaling, sound pollution
8th: 15.11
7th: 15.11
NG Marine noise pollution

Th 5/1: Wrap-up
concept inventory, the future
8th: 18.4; Appendix VIII, if interested
7th: 18.4; Appendix X, if interested
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Marine Pharmaceuticals

M 5/5 (4:30-7:00 pm): Final Exam (covers entire course, with ~40% on material after the third midterm exam)