Skip to main content

GEOSC 40 - The Sea around Us

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


Geosc 40, The Sea Around Us (3) (GN)(BA), is an introduction to marine sciences and the world ocean, including physical, chemical, biological, and geological aspects of oceanography. The Sea Around Us introduces students to the basic workings of the ocean. The course focuses on fundamental principles of natural sciences as related to the ocean and covers the origin of the ocean's rock-walled boundaries, the evolution of its coastlines, the motion of currents, waves, and tides and their destructive power, the source, and composition of seawater, and the role of the ocean in local and global climate. The majority of the Earth's surface is covered by water and thus it seems likely that the human race will become increasingly dependent on oceanic resources in the future. This course seeks to illuminate how the ocean will respond to increased anthropogenic pressure. Students are shown how such issues can be addressed through a detailed understanding of the complex interplay between the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the ocean. Throughout this course, we will learn about the processes involved in ocean-climate-life interactions and explore how scientific inquiry has informed our understanding of ocean evolution through time and the importance of oceans to life on Earth. We will also examine how ocean resources and hazards impact society and how they may be managed. This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.


When you successfully complete this course, you will be an "ocean literate" person who can:

  • explain essential principles and fundamental concepts about how oceans function;
  • communicate about the ocean in a meaningful way; and
  • make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources.

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.

You will need to purchase and create an account for Yellowdig for this course. Yellowdig does require a small fee for the semester. 




We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 8 - 10 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

This course will rely on a variety of assignments to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

Discussions: 20% of total course grade

Each week you will engage in spontaneous discussions about the course material, oceanography topics in the news, and ideas and questions the course sparks for you. These discussions will help you refine your understanding of course material, evaluate how course concepts connect to the world around you, and practice communicating about ocean science and ocean resources. Discussions will be facilitated with Yellowdig.

Context Assignments: 20% of total course grade

Approximately every other week you will explore broader connections between the course material and the world around you with a Context Assignment. For these assignments, you will be asked to engage in an activity (for example, read an article, watch a video, or explore a web resource) and synthesize the information presented in the activity with course material. You will submit text responding to prompts provided about each activity in a Canvas Assignment. You will also engage in peer evaluation of others' submissions. Context Assignments will provide new opportunities to refine your understanding of course concepts, investigate connections between oceanography and different aspects of life, and build communication and evaluation skills.

Data Projects: 25% of total course grade

Four Data Projects will provide you with direct practice with concepts presented in the class and the opportunity to explore real oceanographic data about topics like hurricanes and ocean productivity. The Data Projects will be hosted as quiz assignments in Canvas. These are larger projects that will take some time to complete and may ask you to try data-analysis techniques you haven't done before, so invest time early and ask questions to set yourself up for success on these projects.

Creative Assignments: 35% of total course grade

Two creative assignments will allow you an opportunity to explain key aspects of ocean science and communicate and advocate for managing ocean resources in a way that is meaningful to you. These will be larger projects with multiple steps to completion and include peer-review components.

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
Unit 1: How It All Begins1
  • Orientation
  • Lesson 1: Introduction to Science and Oceanography
  • Lesson 2: Origin of the Universe
  • Discussion
Unit 1: How It All Begins2
  • Lesson 3: Origin of Earth
  • Lesson 4: Plate Tectonics
  • Context Assignment 1
  • Discussion
Unit 2: Water - The Wonder Substances3
  • Lesson 5: Special Properties of Water
  • Lesson 6: Ocean Salinity
  • Peer Review Context Assignment 1
  • Discussion
Unit 2: Water - The Wonder Substances4
  • Lesson 7: Water Density and Ocean Stratification
  • Lesson 8: Dissolved Gases and Ocean Acidification
  • Outline for Creative Assignment 1
  • Context Assignment 2
  • Discussion
Unit 3: Good Energy5
  • Lesson 9: Earth's Energy Budget
  • Lesson 10: Atmospheric Circulation
  • Peer Review Context Assignment 2
  • Peer Review Creative Assignment 1 outline
  • Discussion
Unit 3: Good Energy6
  • Lesson 11: Ocean Currents
  • Lesson 12: El Niño/La Niña and Ocean-Atmosphere Teleconnections
  • Data Project 1
  • Discussion
Infographic7No new lessons
  • Context Assignment 3
  • Creative Assignment 1 - Infographic
  • Discussion
Unit 4: Dynamic coasts8
  • Lesson 13: Ocean waves
  • Lesson 14: Shallow water waves
  • Peer Review Context Assignment 3
  • Peer Review Creative Assignment 1 - Infographic
  • Discussion
Unit 4: Dynamic coasts9
  • Lesson 15: Tides
  • Lesson 16: Coastal Processes
  • Data Project 2
  • Context Assignment 4
  • Discussion
Letter10No new lessons
  • Peer Review of Context 4
  • Outline for Creative Assignment 2 - Ocean Action Letter
  • Discussion
Unit 5: Ocean Life11
  • Lesson 17: Ocean Life Habitats
  • Lesson 18: Primary Productivity
  • Data Project 3
  • Peer review of Creative Assignment 2 outline
  • Discussion
Unit 5: Ocean Life12
  • Lesson 19: Ocean Food Webs
  • Lesson 20: Marine Ecosystems through Time and Earth's Carbon Cycle
  • Context Assignment 5
  • Discussion
Unit 6: Case Studies13
  • Lesson 21: Polar Oceans
  • Lesson 22: Coral Bleaching
  • Peer Review for Context Assignment 5
  • Data Project 4
  • Discussion
Letter14No new lessons
  • Context Assignment 6
  • Creative Assignment 2 - Ocean Action Letter
  • Discussion
Unit 6: Case Studies15
  • Lesson 23: Chesapeake Bay
  • Lesson 24: Small Island Communities and Climate Change
  • Peer Review of Context Assignment 6
  • Peer Review of Creative Assignment 2
  • Discussion