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Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Coastal Science and Conservation 

Department: Marine Science                               

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

Course Description

In this course students will explore current threats to coastal ecosystems, working with real data to better understand these issues and discuss appropriate conservation measures. Each week will focus on one emerging threat, including overfishing, invasive species, climate change and coral bleaching. Depending on the focal issue, students will 1) gather data from publicly available resources, 2) analyze and interpret these data, and 3) connect with the community to communicate their results and contribute to existing conservation efforts.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

Ultimately, this course aims to empower students as scientists and conservationists, demonstrating that they have the agency to impact real and positive change. More specifically, this course will focus on developing the following skills:
  • Statistical analysis of experimentally derived, as well as publicly available datasets
  • Basic competency in Microsoft Excel primarily to create graphs
  • Ability to effectively communicate scientific results to each other and various community members
  • By the end of this course, students will be able to independently develop interesting research questions given available data and determine appropriate analytical methods

Course Outline

  • Sustainable seafood
    • Case Study 1: Analyze genetic data to investigate mislabeling of seafood at local markets and restaurants
    • Engage with the community to understand current perceptions of “sustainable seafood” and how this translates to marketplace practices
  • Invasive Species
    • Case Study 2: Examine and assist in identifying invasive species on deployed PVC panel plates to help scientists understand the patterns and consequences of climate change
    • Discuss the implications and current trends with scientists leading the project
  • Impacts of extreme El Nino Events
    • Case Study 3: Use long-term datasets collected offshore of southern California since 1951 to test if two main groups of zooplankton (Crustaceans and gelatinous animals) increase or decrease in response to changes in the abundance of their phytoplankton prey during El Nino events
    • Discuss impacts of climate change, specifically the increasing frequency of extreme El Nino events on marine food chains
  • Coral Reef Bleaching and Restoration
    • Case Study 4: Compare and contrast bleaching potential of 15 inshore and 15 offshore corals from Florida Keys
    • Introduce examples of coral restoration projects and the potential impacts on bleached reefs. Discussion panel with scientists that participate in this groundbreaking research


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