Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Marine Biology - Course is full

Department: Marine Science

Instructors: Nicole Yen and Sonya Timko
Instructors' Emails:;
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

This course is designed to take high school students and give them an appreciation and understanding of marine biology. Students will learn about the diverse groups of marine organisms, variety of ecosystems and habitats, and current events in today’s oceans such as overfishing, ocean acidification, restoration and marine protected areas.  Through lecture, readings, projects, field trips and discussions students will learn about the diversity of ocean environments and how the creatures that live there are adapted to best survive. Students will learn theories pertinent to ecology as a whole as well as the specifics to the ocean. Students will also have the opportunity to explore areas that interest them, to become experts on a topic and teach each other. The class will stress hands on learning with mini experiments, field trips and demonstrations.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

The goals of this course include giving the student a broad overall understanding of marine ecology, taxonomy, and diversity. Students will come out of the class better aware of current events regarding the ocean and its overall health. Students will gain an understanding of how the environment plays a significant role in the survival and lifestyle of the organisms that live there. Additionally the course will give students an opportunity to pursue their own interest area through guided independent research.

Course Outline


  • Introduction to the ocean—oceans, their characteristics and habitats
  • Introduction to taxonomy—Introduce groups of marine organisms and their characteristics

Marine Mammals

  • Groups of marine mammals and their adaptations and life histories
  • Case Study of local harbor seals with field trip


  • Diversity—groups of fish
  • Morphology, schooling, reproductive strategies—with interesting case studies
  • Field trip to aquarium
  • Possible in class lab with specimens from the fish collection


  • Introduction into the lives of the more complex and important invertebrates
  • HUGE diversity of body types and life histories
  • In class lab with shells and hopefully live specimens

What we can't see: Plankton

  • Introduction to the plankton
  • Their importance in the food chain
  • Red tides and bioluminescence
  • Possible guest lecture on algal biofuels

Kelp Forrest Ecology

  • Kelp—What is it? Where is it? Why is it important?
  • Organisms of the kelp forest
  • Case study of Sea Otters to introduce concepts of a keystone species, trophic cascade and ecosystem balance
  • Possible snorkeling field trip

Coral Reef Ecology

  • Distribution
  • Corals—who they really are
  • Diversity of organisms
  • Threats to coral reefs

Deep Sea Ecology

  • Abiotic pressures of living down deep
  • Organisms, their challenges and adaptations
  • Deep sea vents

Intertidal Ecology

  • Pressures of a dynamic habitat
  • Organisms, their distribution and adaptations
  • Field trips to the intertidal

Mangroves, Eelgrass beds and wetlands

  • What are these lesser talked around habitats and why are they important?
  • Field trip to wetlands


  • What is it? Why is it happening?
  • Diversity of fishing methods
  • What is an ideal fish to fish and why?
  • Case studies
  • Fisheries management strategies
  • Sustainable fish you can eat!

Marine Protected Areas and Restoration

  • Different types of MPAs
  • Benefits and drawbacks to MPAs
  • Artificial reefs

Climate Change

  • How does it affect the ocean?
  • Ocean acidification
  • Distribution changes


*Courses vary by experience and exposure to content. Instructors have the ability to change content and pace to serve the needs of students.


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