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Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics

Department: Marine Science                      
Instructors: Shailja Gangrade
Instructor's Email:
Prerequisites: None
Schedule: Tues, Wed, Thurs, 10:00AM - 12:00PM PST

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to the biological and physical dynamics of ocean ecosystems. This class will explain “who” lives in the oceans, “what” types of organisms they are, “why” they live there, and “how” the ocean environment supports life. This class will describe a wide scope of marine life, from microscopic organisms (bacteria) to the planet’s largest animals (blue whales).

We will also discuss the most important requirements for life in an ocean environment, including physical variables such as light and oxygen, and biological variables, such as predators and prey. Finally, this class will cover the impacts of human activity and climate change on a few key marine ecosystems. Through lectures and group discussions, students will be introduced to several marine ecosystems.

To synthesize the information learned in class, students will choose any marine ecosystem that interests them, and in an individual presentation, they will articulate the “who, what, how, and why” of life in that ecosystem, as well as the current impacts of human activity/climate change it faces.

Learning Outcomes

Students will achieve a better understanding of ecosystem principles, marine ecology, biodiversity in the ocean, and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems.They will expand their view of the ocean beyond familiar ecosystems—such as sandy beaches and coral reefs—and gain perspectives about ecosystems we cannot always see or touch. Students will also hone their critical thinking skills to address interdisciplinary concepts (physics, biology, chemistry) during their individual projects.

Course Topics

  • Ecosystem Principles
    • Definition, levels of organization
  • The Ocean Environment
    • Physical factors
    • Biological factors
  • The “Who/What”
    • Marine Bacteria
    • Marine Plankton
    • Marine Invertebrates (e.g., crustaceans, worms)
    • Marine Vertebrates (e.g., bony fishes, sharks)
    • Marine Mammals (e.g., cetaceans)
  • The “How/Why”
    • Interactions with environment
    • Interactions with other species
  • Human Impacts and Climate Change
    • Overfishing
    • Ocean Warming
    • Ocean Acidification
    • Ocean Deoxygenation

*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.