Marine Biology (Section 2)

Discipline: Biology
Instructor: vonHippel
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1250
End: 1405
Field Work: Day 1 | Mauritius Download Syllabus

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 Work

Country: Mauritius
Day: 1

Mangrove forests and coral reefs harbor much of the biodiversity of tropical marine ecosystems.  Mangrove trees and coral provide structural complexity to near shore marine habitat, allowing the co-existence of diverse species assemblages.  When that structure is damaged or removed, these ecosystems can collapse.  Mangrove forests have been cleared throughout much of the tropics for coastal development, while coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification and other human sources of habitat degradation.  In this lab, we will explore both habitat types to learn about their ecology, conservation problems, and restoration efforts.
Academic Objectives:
  1. Students will learn how to construct their own hypothesis.  They will collect data to test their hypothesis, and learn how to analyze their data statistically.
  2. They will gain experience writing a scientific paper, and specifically on how to write concisely.
  3. Students will learn how ecosystem structure relates to biodiversity and ecological integrity, and how mangrove forests and coral reefs can be restored following ecological damage.
  4. Students will also learn how on-shore activities are associated with conservation problems in shallow marine habitats.