Coastal Environmental Ecology [CRN 77195]

Discipline: Natural Resources
Instructor: Smith
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1100
End: 1220
Field Work: Day 1 | October 19, 2017 | Mauritius
Prerequisites: One (1) fundamentals of chemistry course. Per Instructor: Prerequisite is waived. Download Syllabus

Over half the worlds’ population lives in coastal areas. Whereas coastal areas, however they are defined, encompass only about 10% of the earth’s land surfaces the oceans account for approximately 75% of the earth’s surface. The coastal population is expected to rise, further intensifying the pressure human activity has on coastal zones. It is the coastal areas where land and ocean meet. Activities in either the oceans or on land affect each other. It is the intent of this course to study and appreciate how coastal zone activities impact the oceans and how what occurs in, and under, the ocean may impact the coasts.  This course will combine the study of the physical environment with human activity:  both man’s activities in the coastal and offshore environment as well as laws and regulations developed at the national and international levels.  Balancing human use of coastal and marine areas with preserving and maintaining a healthy ecosystem is a challenging task. Urban development leads to natural habitat loss, including the loss of wetlands, marshlands, mangrove forests, sand dunes. While certain regions of the ocean have rich fishing grounds, overfishing and non-enforcement in many parts of the world has led to the demise of fish. Pollution of water and air adds to the problem in both the coastal and marine environments. The list of natural resources found in coastal and marine areas include both living and non-resources such oil, gas, sand, gravel, minerals, and fish. Climate change imposes a major threat for coastal areas. Coral reefs, and low-lying islands, are especially susceptible to climate change as sea levels rise.  How countries and the international community address these dynamic processes will be a major focus in this course.

Course Goals and Objectives:

  • To provide a fundamental understanding of coastal offshore marine areas by studying oceanic processes, both natural and man-made and the interaction between oceans, atmosphere, and coastal zones.
  • To assess the activities occurring both in the coastal zone and in the oceans to gain an appreciation of the inter-relationship between the two areas.
  • To assess how countries and the international approach management of the valuable resources and eco-systems of both the coastal areas and offshore marine areas taking into consideration national and international laws, regulations, and enforcement.

Field Work

Country: Mauritius
Day: 1
Date: October 19, 2017

The field class will be “The Coastal Ecology of Mauritius:  An Introduction to Mangrove Forests and Coral Reefs”.  Mangrove forests and coral reefs provide structural complexity to near shore marine habitats and are key to the biodiversity of species in a tropical marine ecosystem like Mauritius. Human development, clearing of the forests for building damages the mangrove forests. Coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification, and from other human activities that cause habitat degradation. During the day the students will be meet and be briefed by Mauritian officials who study the mangroves and coral reefs and who attempt to manage and conserve them.  The intent is that part of the day will be spent exploring the mangrove forests from kayaks and to learn first-hand the importance of these forest and that they are endangered.  Throughout the day Mauritian officials will describe the success, and failures, of their national management schemes to conserve the mangrove forests, as well as the coral reefs.  Time permitting, it is hoped the students will be able to don snorkel gear to see for themselves how vibrant, or not, the coral is near the Mauritian coast.  By the end of the day the students should have gained an appreciation of what is working and what may not be working with respect to the conservation of this special part of the Mauritian ecological system.  And, they hopefully will be able to critique the Mauritian efforts and to offer suggestions, by way of their briefing memorandum once back on the ship, on how management schemes and approaches could be improved.

Learning Objectives:
1. Observe the marine habitats in Mauritius, primarily the mangrove forests and coral reefs.
2. Meet marine researchers from the Univ. of Maurtius and learn about the critical issues of the Mauritius marine ecosystem.
3. Develop an appreciation of the interaction between nature and man’s impact on the ecosystem.