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Registration for the Winter 2020 semester begins soon.  Watch your email for more details.
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Ocean Environment

Course Code: EAES 1240
Faculty: Science & Technology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course helps students develop an understanding of the ocean environment and interactions with other Earth systems. Students will learn about the physical, chemical, geological and biological factors affecting the Earth's oceans. Current issues such as climate change, sea level rise, and pollution will be examined. A field trip may be required.

Course Content

1. Origin of the oceans:  universe and Earth formation, outgassing.

2. History of ocean science: voyages of discovery and colonization, scientific exploration after 1750, modern era after 1900.

3. Plate tectonics and ocean basins: tectonic plates, earthquakes, Earth's layers, evidence for plate tectonics, plate boundaries, bathymetry and mapping, continental shelf / slope / rise, abyssal plain, trenches, ridges.

4. Ocean sediments and rocks: sediment types / distribution / composition, ocean floor rock types.

5. Water: molecular structure, bonding, heat capacity, density, temperature, salinity, moderation of atmospheric temperature, pycnocline / thermocline / halocline, water masses, refraction of sound and light, light penetration spectrum, solvent properties, seawater composition, dissolved gases, chemical equilibrium.

6. Atmospheric circulation: hydrologic cycle, composition and density, solar heating, Coriolis effect, circulation cells, weather.

7. Ocean circulation: Ekman spiral, gyres and currents, upwelling and downwelling, Langmuir circulation, ENSO / La Nina, thermohaline circulation.

8. Waves: characteristics, depth effect, refraction, oscillation, internal waves, tsunamis.

9. Tides: Newtonian model, effects of gravity and inertia, amphidromic systems, diurnal / semi-diurnal / mixed tides, tidal currents.

10. Coasts and estuaries: sea level change (including Vail curve), erosional and depositional coasts, beaches, deltas, estuary types, reefs.

11. Life in the oceans: physical and chemical factors, productivity, ecology, plankton, algae, plants, animals, carbon and nitrogen cycles, reefs, hydrothermal vents.

12. Resources of the ocean: law of the sea, fisheries, whales, petroleum, minerals.

13. Contemporary issues:  may include waste disposal, sea-level rise, rising temperatures, decreasing biodiversity, eutrophication, coral bleaching, oil spills, national control of resources, and others.

14. Labs may cover the following topics:

  • Use of maps, profiles and graphs to describe and interpret data
  • Bathymetry
  • Sea floor spreading
  • Tides
  • Materials of the sea floor (sediments and rocks)
  • Sea water temperatures
  • Salinity
  • Currents
  • Waves
  • Life in the sea, food webs
  • Productivity
  • Seawater chemistry
  • Minerals and rocks

Methods of Instruction

Lecture, lab, possible field trip.

Means of Assessment

Participation and In-class assignments  0-10%
Project 0-20%
Labs 10-20%
Lab Exams 15-25%
Lecture Exams 55-60%
     Term Exam(s) 20-40%
     Final Exam 20-30%

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  Evaluation will be based on the table above.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. Appreciate the interaction of ocean, atmosphere, lithosphere and biosphere.

2. Describe the circulation systems of the atmosphere, ocean and mantle.

3. Identify and describe the materials of the ocean, atmosphere and lithosphere.

4. Understand the major physical, chemical and biological processes occurring in the ocean.

5. Illustrate ocean science concepts using maps, graphs and other methods.

6. Discuss contemporary environmental issues using knowledge of ocean sciences.

course prerequisites




curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.