This course explores the biology of the oceans, which cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface. The course begins with an introduction to the oceans as physical habitats, including ocean currents, topographical structure, climate regimes, and ocean chemistry. The course then examines marine food webs, from primary producers to top carnivores, and how human activities have affected the structure of marine food webs, fisheries, ocean chemistry and sea level. Challenges to life in different ocean habitats are examined, including the deep sea (e.g., deep ocean trenches, hydrothermal vents), the open ocean, shallow near-shore waters (e.g., kelp forests, seagrass communities), intertidal zones, and estuaries and salt marshes. Latitudinal trends are examined from the polar seas to tropical communities, such as coral reefs and mangrove forests. The course also examines symbiotic relationships between algae and animals and among animals. Special attention is paid to the diversity of marine habitats visited on the Semester at Sea voyage, and human impacts on the marine environment.
Field WorkCountry: Japan
We will visit Japan’s largest collection of marine life, with over 500 species of fishes and thousands of other marine organisms. We will review the major associations between habitat type, life history (e.g., herbivore vs. predator, anadromous vs. strictly marine) and morphology of fishes, along with correlated physiological processes. We will also review the process of sexual selection and how it leads to sexually dimorphic species. These concepts will be illustrated by visiting exhibits in the aquarium. Students will be provided with a template for formulating a hypothesis related to one of the concepts. Students will use the exhibits to collect data to test their hypothesis. The majority of the field trip time will be occupied with data collection. After the field trip concludes, students will write a scientific paper (Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, References) based on their data collection, and incorporating statistical analysis (due February 11). Students will use faculty edits and comments to revise their paper, thereby improving writing and analysis skills. Revised papers will be due March 5. Academic Objectives: 1. Study the relationships between marine habitat, life history, physiology and morphology of marine fishes 2. Learn how sexual selection drives the evolution of sexual dimorphism in color and behavior 3. Gain experience in study design, data collection, statistical analysis, interpretation and scientific writing