Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Marine Invertebrates

Department: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Instructors: Lori Luers, Mohammad Sedarat, and Alyssa Demko
Instructor Email:;;
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

In this course, students will learn what marine invertebrates are, how they are classified, how each is similar and different to ourselves and how each is connected to us. We will cover the anatomy and life history of the approximately 35 currently recognized invertebrate phyla, their evolutionary relationships, and their ecological roles in marine environments. Students will go to the habitats where marine invertebrates live including tide pools, experimental aquaria, and the Birch Aquarium.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

Students will be able to correctly classify marine invertebrates on their own. Students will understand how different marine invertebrates relate to one another. Students will understand differences among local habitats and how marine invertebrates adapt. Students will gain an educated perspective of what climate change will mean to the local ecology.

Course Outline

Week 1 Module

  • Introduction to marine habitats (open ocean, deep sea, intertidal, kelp forest)
  • Poriferans (sponges)
  • Cnidarians (jellyfish and anemones)
  • Platyhelminthes (flatworms)
  • Small, obscure phyla (tardigrades, rotifers, chaetognaths, etc.)
  • Field trip to Birch Aquarium

Week 2 Module

  • Molluscs (snails, mussels, etc.)
  • Polychaetes (worms)
  • Arthropods (shrimp, crab, etc.)
  • Lophophorates (bryozoans)
  • Visit to SIO invertebrate collections
  • Field trip to beach for sand community and local geology

Week 3 Module

  • Echinoderms (sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers)
  • Urochoradates and hemichordates (tunicates and amphioxus)
  • Human environmental impacts
  • Work on final project
  • Field trip to tidepools
  • Snorkeling at La Jolla Shores


*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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