Introduction to Oceanography

Course Details

Where/How to find Sean Todd

Office: Turrets Annex, 3rd floor

Office hours: Weds 1-3 pm, or by appointment

Phone: ext. 265


Where/How to find Kara Johnson, TA

Office: TAB/Graduate Office



Course web-page:

This site includes lecture outlines, powerpoint presentations, and useful web links, as well as other important class information. Make sure you visit it!

Course Description

Planet Earth is misnamed. Seawater covers approximately 70% of the planet's surface, in one giant all-connected ocean. This ocean has a profound effect on the planet's climate, chemistry, ecosystem, and energy resources. Billions of years ago life began there, in what now we regard as the last unexplored frontier of this planet. In this course we examine the various disciplines within oceanography, including aspects of geology and sedimentology, chemical, dynamic and biological oceanography. The course concludes with an introduction to marine ecosystems examined at various trophic levels, including phyto/zooplankton, fish and other macrofauna. Fieldwork (weather dependent) includes trips on RV Indigo, trips to intertidal and estuarine ecosystems, and possible visits to the college's islands, Mount Desert Rock and Great Duck Island. Evaluation will be by lab, quizzes and a final paper. Introductory. ES. Lab fee $50-150, depending on enrollment. Class size limited to 15.



Introductory Oceanography. Thurman, H. V., and Trujillo, A. P. 2004 (10th Edition), Prentice Hall.



Certain labs will contain an assessed component. Such assignments will be due the following Friday. There will also be four take-home problem sets. Assignments handed in late without prior approval from me receive no credit. Finally, you will be evaluated on your class participation; this includes involvement and participation in labs, class discussion, and displayed knowledge of readings.


Take home problem sets (15% each)






Stuff you need to know

The Ocean is COLD! Colder than your house at 3 am in the morning on a winter's night with no heating on; and here's the killer - it can be 75°F on land, and still freezing cold on the water. Moral of the story: BE PREPARED to get wet and cold, even if we are staying on dry land, even if it's a beautiful summer's day. If we go out to Mount Desert Rock you will receive a separate set of instructions which you will be expected to follow.



I have a number of excellent videos that will help you as you explore this course. I will show one each Tuesday night throughout the term. Anyone can attend, but I expect the majority of the Oceanography class to be there! Bring popcorn.



To take advantage of tides (which wait for no man, woman or hermaphrodite), we will have to make the best of certain scheduling anomalies. Therefore, pay close attention to the class schedule and listen for changes in plans (usually by email). Since some of the labs require going out on the water, we will need to aim for non-windy weather. Rain in itself will not stop a lab (did I mention dress WARMLY!). Check for conflicts with other classes as occasionally I will require you to start labs early or come home late. Here are some notes on specific labs:

Great Head/Goreham Mtn. A pleasant hike, whodunnit and scenic view. Bring hiking gear. No assessment.


Using GIS in Oceanography. this is a guest lecture spot held during lab period in the GIS lab and run by Tora Johnson (I will be away during this time). In this lab/lecture, Tora will introduce you to the power of GIS and show you its potential as an oceanographic tool. No assessment.


Oceanographic measurements. Three non-consecutive afternoons on the water. Bring warm gear. Expect to spend part of the w/e completing this lab on your own in the Zoo lab/Computer lab. This is an assessed lab that over several weeks will build a picture of how oceanographic conditions develop in Spring.


Surfin'… A trip to Sullivan Falls to watch currents in action. A boat trip, so as always, dress warmly. No assessment (but this year this lab will be tacked onto the end of an Oceanographic Measurement lab &emdash; see above &emdash;which is assessed).


Saint John, New Brunswick. An overland trip to see the famous reversing falls of SJ - driven by the most powerful tides in the world! Make an effort to go on this trip, it's always a lot of fun. There will be a sign up sheet for this, minimum of 5 people needed.


Sand Beach: Part 1 of a comparative survey of beach profiles caused by wave energy. Be warned, the analysis outside of this lab takes time! Assessed lab.


Estuaries. We leave from the whale skull and take the van to Pretty Marsh where we join Indigo and travel up the Union River estuary. Assessed lab. This one will take lots of time after the lab to analyze and write up.


Indian Point: Part 2 of our Beach Profiling lab. This one goes much faster if you understood Part 1! Assessed lab.

Mount Desert Rock. An overnight trip to one of the College's offshore field stations. A memorable experience. Make an effort to go on this trip, it'll be a good way to blow off those Week 8/9 blues. Minimum of 10 people needed. No assessment. An additional lab fee of $20 is needed from all participants for food, etc. This lab will be proceeded in the morning with the final Oceanographic measurements lab.