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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Oceanography (EASC08004)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryOceanography is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to all branches of Oceanography, namely physical, biological, chemical and geological oceanography, for science students. While introducing the basic principles the course also aims to provide a solid foundation for marine aspects of advanced courses in environmental sciences, geography, sedimentology, marine geology, ecology and meteorology. The course is formally divided into physical, biological, chemical and geological oceanography but the multi-disciplinary nature of ocean sciences is emphasized through out the course by highlighting the links between disciplines.
In this course you will find out about ocean currents, both wind-driven surface currents and deep ocean currents driven by the effects of temperature and dissolved salts on water buoyancy. The oceans play an important part transporting heat from low to high latitudes to maintain a balance in the global heat budget. The biological part reviews the different life forms found in the oceans, looking particularly at issues relating to biological productivity and biological diversity, adaptation of life forms and differences between various marine ecosystems. The chemical part will look at the properties of water, the chemical make up of salt, the distribution of dissolved gases and nutrients in the ocean which are vital for life, and the biological and physical factors that govern their occurrence. This set of lectures will also tackle how the ocean functions as a self-regulating system while highlighting the unique role the ocean plays in maintaining Earth's climate to be hospitable. Human impact on the marine environment is also discussed. The geological oceanography deals with the structure and the development of ocean basins, their bedrock geology and the influx of sediments. How ocean circulation and climate changes of the past are recorded in ocean sediments and mineral resources are also discussed.
Course description Syllabus (SJ Simon Jung, SH Sian Henley, AT Alex Thomas)
Week 1
Lecture 1 Introduction to the course: branches of oceanography; history of ideas and knowledge about oceans; Kelvin and the transatlantic telegraph cable; The Challenger Expedition; Nansen and The Fram. New approaches:
remote sensing and satellites. Nomination of Class Representative (SJ)
Lecture 2 Why does the Earth have ocean basins and what do they look like: (SJ) The hypsometric curve and ocean basin profiles; the Earth's crust and isostasy; sedimentation - sources and smoothing. convection, conduction and lithospheric plates; magnetic anomalies and the formation of ocean crust; old plates sink; the life cycle of an ocean basin.
Lecture 3
Week 2 The global ocean-atmosphere heat budget: solar heating and surface radiation; evaporation and precipitation; winds and transporting heat and water vapour in the atmosphere; the effect of continents.
How the oceans help to restore a latitudinal imbalance. (SJ)
Lecture 4 What drives ocean circulation?: wind-driven and thermo-haline circulation; wind stress, buoyancy, temperature and salinity, Coriolis force and friction; transporting heat and salinity; turbulence and diffusive mixing; the water masses; boundary layers; profiles for temperature, salinity, density, light and oxygen concentration. (SJ)

Lecture 5 Waves and Tides: wave geometry and speed; shallow and deep water waves; the wave source and swell; interaction with the coast; breaking waves. Tide-generating forces; luni-solar tides; dynamics of the Earth Moon-Sun system; astronomical periodicities; the equilibrium tide and the response of the Earth; basins, amphidromic points and cotidal charts. (SJ)
Lecture 6
Week 3 The surface ocean: Wind driven circulation I: atmospheric flow patterns; Coriolis force; Ekman drift; planetary and relative vorticity; wind torques and Sverdrup transport; better model for asymmetric ocean gyres; friction and western current jet - the Gulf Stream; wave geometry and speed. (SJ)
Lecture 7 The surface ocean: Wind driven circulation II: sea surface topography and geostrophic currents; simple model for mid-latitude ocean gyres. Case studies(i) subsurface effects and coastal upwelling; (ii) Equatorial currents and (iii) the Antarctic Circum-Polar Current. (SJ)
Lecture 8 Introduction to marine Biology: Introduction to the different habitats of the ocean and their inhabitants.
Classification of marine life (SJ)
Lecture 9
Week 4 Primary productivity 1: Phytoplankton - introduction to marine ecology. Generalities on phytoplankton. (SH)
Lecture 10 Primary productivity 2: phytoplankton Distribution patterns of marine primary productivity. Physical controls on the distribution of phytoplankton. (SJ)
Lecture 11 Zooplankton I Generalities on zooplankton. Distribution patterns of zooplankton, seasonal change and migration of copepods and euphausiids (SJ)
Lecture 12
Week 5 Zooplankton II Recycling and energy flow in marine ecosystems; food chains in the open ocean, continental shelves and upwelling regions. (SJ)
Lecture 13 The nekton realm Generalities on the nekton realm. Deep-sea invertebrates, morphological adaptations of midwater and deep sea fishes. (SJ)
Practical 1 Laboratory examination of marine phyto- and zooplankton. (Repeated on Wednesday) Assessed (SH); Handin at the end of the lab session unless announced otherwise
Lecture 14 The benthic realm. Distribution of the benthos. Intertidal environments, estuaries, corals reefs and deep sea ecology. Distribution and biology of coral reefs. Biology of hydrothermal vent communities: species diversification in the deep ocean (SH)
Lecture 15 Properties of seawater: The fundamental aspect of seawater is its saltiness. This lecture introduces the structure of water molecule and its solvent properties (AT).

Flexible Learning Week

Week 6
Lecture 16 Sea Salt: A litre of seawater contains roughly 35 grams of salt. This lecture deals with the methods for determination of salt contents in seawater, the chemical make-up of sea salt its origin, transport to the ocean and its ultimate fate. (AT)
Practical 2 Laboratory on physical Oceanography. (Repeated Tuesday & Wednesday) Assessed (SJ)
Lecture 17 The deep ocean: Thermohaline circulation I: Temperature-salinity plots and the fingerprint of water masses; salinity and temperature effects on water buoyancy; evaporation and precipitation; sea ice formation; rivers and icebergs; the temperature profile and the rate of thermohaline circulation - Munk's calculation. (SJ)

Lecture 18
Week 7 The deep ocean: Thermohaline circulation II: intermediate ocean waters, case studies of Mediterranean Water and Antarctic Intermediate Water; formation of NADW and AABW; sinking, upwelling and planetary vorticity; patterns of deep water flow: control of bottom topography; case studies of deep water flow (i) the
Atlantic (ii) the Pacific. (SJ)
Lecture 19 Dissolved Nutrients in Seawater: Nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate are essential for photosynthesis in the ocean. This lecture deals with how nutrients are recycled with in the ocean. (AT)
Practical 3: Ocean circulation and sea water composition (Wednesday) Assessed (AT)
Lecture 20 Gases and climate: The occurrence of gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide in the ocean is intimately associated with life in the ocean. This lecture discusses the processes that govern the distribution of these gases and explores ocean's role in global change. (AT)
Lecture 21
Week 8 Human impacts on the Ocean: Ocean is long used as a dumping ground for industrial and human waste. This lecture will discuss some of the key chemical contaminants introduced into the ocean due to human activities and their impacts. Model exams and exam time table. (AT)
Lecture 22 Sediments: General principles, processes and products of modern marine sedimentation (SJ)
Practical 3: Ocean circulation and sea water composition (Tuesday) Assessed (AT)
Lecture 23 Biogenic Sediments: distribution and processes in the ocean, depositional environments (SJ)
Lecture 24
Week 9 Estuaries: In estuaries fresh water mix with seawater forming a unique coastal environment. The lecture explores the estuarine environment, their formation, water circulation and various biogeochemical processes unique to estuaries (AT)
Lecture 25 Sea level: Evidence of sea level changes in the past, implications for tomorrow (SJ)
Lecture 26 Ocean circulation during the last glacial I (SJ)
Lecture 27 Ocean circulation during the last glacial II (SJ) (SJ)
Feedback and Exam preparation details announced during class

Further course information can be found at the following links:
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  150
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 24, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 27, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 3, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 139 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 50%, Course Work: three practicals combined 20 %; one infographic 30%.
The written exam consists of four subsections. Each subsection contains one question requiring a short answer and one question involving a long answer. All questions need to be answered.
50% of the overall mark reflects the combined individual course work marks.
Both the exam and the course work need to be passed independently (40% or above).
Assessment Deadlines**
Unless announced differently during class, the hand-in dates for laboratory work is 12noon on the following dates in semester:
Marine Biology Tuesday week 6 (first session) and Wednesday week 6 (repeat session)
Physical Oceanography 12:00 Tuesday week 7 (both sessions)
Chemical Oceanography 12:00 Monday week 9 (both sessions).
The infographic task will be set at the end of week 9 with a submission deadline 3 weeks later (12:00 Monday Week 13).
Feedback There is continued opportunity to either ask questions after the lecture or arrange a meeting with a member of staff to discuss questions related to the course. Also, feedback will be given on all three assessed course work submissions.
Additional feedback will be provided on request.
Examples of feedback can be found here:
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)3:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. A comprehensive understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of ocean sciences including physical, biological, chemical and geological oceanography
  2. Knowledge of habitats in the ocean, marine organisms and predator-prey relations between them.
  3. Knowledge of surface and deep ocean circulation and their driving mechanisms, the composition of sea water and its properties as well as an understanding of the chemical cycles in the ocean and their evolution.
  4. Understanding of mechanisms generating ocean bathymetry and sedimentation.
  5. Knowledge of human impacts on marine environments, resources and the ocean's role in global change.
Reading List
Recommended reading
¿ Invitation to Oceanography, Paul R Pinet, (editions 4, 5, 6 or 7), Jones & Bartlet, Sudbury MA.
Recommended for further reading
¿ (Available in the Robertson Library)
¿ Oceanography: An introduction to the planet Oceanus, Paul R Pinet
¿ Introductory Oceanography Harold V. Thurman
¿ Open University Books (Pergamon Press, Oxford)
¿ Ocean Circulation
¿ The Ocean Basins: Their Structure and Evolution
¿ Seawater: It¿s Composition, Properties and Behaviour
¿ Waves, Tides and Shallow-Water Processes
¿ Ocean Chemistry and Deep Sea Sediments
¿ Biological Oceanography: An Introduction, Carol M. Lalli and Timothy R. Parsons.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information Semester 2
Lectures: Tuesdays 12noon-1pm
Thursdays 11am-12pm
Fridays 11am-12noon
Practical class: Tuesdays or Wednesdays 2-5pm

Course organiserDr Simon Jung
Course secretaryMs Katerina Sykioti
Tel: (0131 6)51 5251
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