Jochen Nuester, Lecturer/Researcher in Marine Biogeochemistry



Jochen Nuester


Geological and Environmental Sciences

Physical Science 233

California State University, Chico

Chico, CA 95929-205


Tentative Syllabus

Introduction into Oceanography


Proposed for General Education, Area B1 Physical Sciences with Laboratory


Instructors: Dr. Jochen Nuester, Dept. of Geological   and Environmental Sciences

Office: HOLT 310

Office hours: to be announced

Class Times: Two 50 minute discussions per week plus 110 minute activity (3 units)


Course Description

This course provides an introduction into the ocean environment with a special emphasis on exploring the interaction between the geological, physical, chemical and biological processes. The oceanic environment is of great importance to human beings (e.g., food, health, transportation, and recreation), yet paradoxically its condition is also dependent upon human activities.  The emphasis of this course is to develop ocean literacy based on the seven essential principles of ocean science:

• The Earth has one big ocean with many features.

• The ocean, and life in the ocean, shape the features of Earth.

• The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.

• The ocean made the Earth habitable.

• The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.

• The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.

• The ocean is largely unexplored.


In this course we will learn how the ocean basins developed and changed over geological time scales. We will learn how the physico-chemical properties of seawater (i.e., temperature, density, salinity, sound, light) are linked and provide the foundation for marine life, motion (i.e. currents, tides, waves), and climate.


Course goals

After active participation in lecture and activity sections of this course, every student should have:

• A greater appreciation for the importance of the ocean for our well-being;

• Familiarity with the basic physical, geological, biological, and chemical processes that shape the oceanic environment;

• A recognition about the dynamics in the ocean and how these dynamics affect life an appreciation for the complexity of life in the ocean;

• Acquired the tools to analyze different sources of information about the health of the ocean.


Course specific Student Learning Outcomes

Throughout this course, the student will:

• Describe the concept of Geologic Time and how oceans have changed during Earth’s history;

• Interpret bathymetry maps;

• Identify and locate different types of plate boundaries;

• Predict Ekman transport in unfamiliar geographic locations;

• Identify the direction of geostrophic currents;

• Analyze the chemical composition of the ocean and its effect on motion and marine life;

• Test how changes of salinity and/or temperature lead to changes in ocean layers;

• Recognize the interconnection of the atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere in the marine environment;

• Predict phytoplankton blooms;

• Recognize the complexity of oceanic processes and evaluate the uncertainty related to climate change predictions;

• Learn to read and analyze primary literature;

• Analyze the biological and chemical composition of the ocean using spreadsheets;

• Plot and interpret scientific graphs.


GE Specific Learning Outcomes

The Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for our General Education program flow from the recognition that certain essential intellectual and practical skills rest at the foundation of a high-quality General Education program. Introduction to Oceanography will develop and enhance many skills and will specifically address the following four SLOs:


• Critical Thinking: Identifies issues and problems raised in written texts, visual media and other forms of discourse, and assesses the relevance, adequacy and credibility of arguments and evidence used in reaching conclusions.

• Mathematical Reasoning: Demonstrates knowledge of and applies mathematical or statistical methods to describe, analyze and solve problems in context.

• Active Inquiry: Demonstrates knowledge of and applies research techniques and information technology appropriate to the intellectual and disciplinary context.

• Sustainability: Describes and explains the environmental dynamics associated with human activities, and assesses the value of balancing social and economic demands with the Earth's ability to sustain physical and biological resources and cultural diversity.


These SLOs will be introduced and discussed primarily through the lecture material and will be enhanced and practiced through hands-on small group, active-learning experiences in the activity sections.  


Tentative Textbook

Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science, 9th Edition

Tom S. Garrison Orange Coast College

ISBN-10: 1305105168  |  ISBN-13: 9781305105164

640 Pages

Publisher: Cengage


Attendance Policy

Attendance of lectures is strongly encouraged since complementary material, in addition to required readings, will be presented in lectures and included in examinations. Attendance during activity sections is mandatory.



There will be four exams during the course. All exams cover topics introduced during lecture and activity sections. The best 3 exams will be counted for your final grade. All exams together will count for 60% of your grade. In addition to exams, weekly quizzes will be available on blackboard learn. All quizzes count for 10% of your grade.  All activity sections require a submission of the laboratory exercise. The laboratory exercise reports account for 30% of your grade. A (90-100%); B (80-89%); C (70-79%); D (60-69%); and F (below 60%).


Working Together

You are encouraged to work together on labs. HOWEVER, it is important that you be able to answer the problems by yourself, with no notes or books on the quizzes and exams. It is recommended that you work in proximity to others and periodically check your answers with each other and discuss questions, but do the work primarily on your own.


Seeking Help

If you have questions, come to office hours, see the tutor, attend study sessions, make an appointment, or e-mail your instructor. It’s your responsibility to seek needed help. I am here when you’re ready.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Policy Statement

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal antidiscrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Accessibility Recourse center at CSU Chico. If you need special accommodation for exams, please let me know in advance so that I can help to find a beneficial solution for you.

Tentative Lecture Schedule

Week 1:  History of Oceanography Introduction and history of oceanography, origin of the earth,

Week 2:  Geological time,

Week 3:  Plate tectonics,

Week 4:  The sea floor and bathymetry

Week 5:  Marine sediments

Week 6:   Physical properties of water

Week 7:  Ocean chemistry

Week 8:  Atmospheric and oceanic structure/circulation chemistry, radiation balance of the earth, atmospheric circulation, Coriolis effect

Week 9:  Surficial ocean currents, deep ocean currents

Week 10:  Biological productivity and energy transfer

Week 11: Marine animals and communities

Week 12: Waves and water dynamics

Week 13:  Tides

Week 14:  The coast: beaches and shoreline processes

Week 15:  Ocean and climate change


Tentative Lab Schedule

Week 1:  Math review and longitude latitude exercise

Week 2:  Geologic time exercise, explain radioactive dating and half-life using M&M’s

Week 3: Seafloor spreading

Week 4: Ocean bathymetry and ocean crustal rocks

Week 5: Learning about sediments using real time data; mineralogy of ocean sediments

Week 6: Sound and light in the ocean

Week 7:  Layered ocean: effects of salinity and temperature

Week 8: Chemistry of the ocean using data collected during the Joint Ocean Flux Study

Week 9: Ocean circulation

Week 10:  Thermohaline circulation

Week 11:  Ocean gyre circulation and patterns of global primary productivity

Week 12: Predicting Phytoplankton blooms; Field Trip to Lake Oroville to collect plankton

Week 13:  Waves and tides

Week 14:  Graphing tides

Week 15:  pH and ocean acidification lab