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Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics - Course Full

This course is full for Summer 2024

Department: Marine Science                      
Instructors: Shailja Gangrade
Instructor's Email:
Prerequisites: None
Dates: July 7 - July 27

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, group discussions, and local field trips, students will be introduced to several marine ecosystems. To synthesize the information learned in class, students will select marine ecosystems that interest them, and in a group 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

  • Identify and describe the physical, biological, and chemical characteristics of ocean ecosystems
  • Identify and describe various types of ocean ecosystems and the dominant living organisms in them
  • Classify common marine organisms/species within broad taxonomic groups
  • Provide descriptive schematics or diagrams that illustrate ecological principles and dynamics
  • Analyze how living organisms interact with the physical environment in an ecosystem
  • Analyze how living organisms interact with each other in an ecosystem
  • Evaluate key ecological impacts of climate change on some marine ecosystem
  • Read and sort information from scientific research articles
  • Select information from various sources and integrate them into written summaries and oral presentations
  • Communicate scientific ideas in an oral presentation with enthusiasm, engagement, and clarity

Course Topics

  • Ecosystem Principles
    • Definitions
    • Levels of organization
    • Introduction to taxonomy
  • The Ocean Environment
    • Physical factors and variables
    • Biological factors and variables
  • 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


None but some introductory biology coursework would be helpful.


*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.