STIA-370 Oceans
Fall for 2017-2018
More than 70 % of the surface of the Earth is covered its oceans. From both environmental and resource standpoints, the oceans play a pivotal role in international mineral and biological resources. But the oceans are rapidly becoming more threatened by planetary-scale climatic changes affecting sea-level, ocean chemistry (acidification), polar warming (sea-ice melting), among others. Moreover, coastal zones around the world are experiencing enormous population growth accompanied by pollution, environmental degradation and resource depletion.

This course is an introduction to the world’s oceans, emphasizing interactions and feedbacks between the oceans and the atmosphere, the lithosphere (outer earth’s crust), the cryosphere (ice), and the biosphere. The course will cover topics relevant to coastal zones (estuaries, mangroves, reef ecosystems, bays), to continental shelves and slopes (gravity slides), and to deep-sea abyssal plains and vents. Topics such as sea-level rise, coastal development, tsunamis and hurricanes, coral reef diversity, fisheries, polar seas, mineral and fossil fuel resources, endangered species, and the carbon cycle and ocean uptake of carbon will be covered. Although a global view is necessary to understand certain ocean-related topics, many policy issues are pertinent at local and regional spatial scales, such as the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, iron fertilization of oceans systems, sea level inundation of low-lying nations, estuarine pollution and hypoxia, and the impact of land use on coastal regions, and water and coastal zone management. Course will discuss international efforts to document marine life, diversity, and ecosystems and understand the role of the oceans in climate change and greenhouse gas cycling.

Developing the scientific background on oceans will also expose students to national and international and non-governmental organizations, policy-making bodies which deal with the world’s oceans, and discuss the most recent discoveries that merit attention on the policy stage. To achieve these goals, this course is designed not as a dogmatic, one-sided view of ocean issues but rather a critical examination of the complexity of scientific processes and the limits in our current understanding of the oceans in the past, present and future.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
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