L&S Curricular Connections

Big Ideas Courses

Earth and Planetary Science C82 / Geography C82 / Integrative Biology C82


Physical Science; Biological Science

Why are oceans important to us? The course begins with the basics: history of voyaging and navigation, continental/ocean geology and geophysics, ocean sediments and paleo-oceanography, water properties, atmosphere circulation, wind-driven and thermohaline (or overturning) circulation, waves and tides, and water dynamics and chemistry (with an emphasis on carbon dioxide). We introduce the alien world of sea life and the importance of the ocean to the global carbon cycle; next come the principles of ecology with a focus on the important concept of energy flow through food webs. Perhaps the most important lesson is how an individual species must have enough energy above and beyond that needed to survive in order to reproduce. Humans have tapped into seemingly unlimited fossil fuel energy and have escaped such energy limitation, leading to explosive population growth with related ocean impacts including over fishing, pollution, and CO2 ocean acidification. By the end of the course students will have a multidisciplinary appreciation of the oceans and how oceans relate to us.

This course will have a main focus on science of the oceans. Topical lectures, including those by UC Berkeley faculty and invited guests, will expand beyond the core science syllabus to include such broad topics as the architecture and bio-mechanics of plankton; the marine ecology and biology of Pandora in “Avatar”; James Cameron’s recent descent to the Challenger Deep; natural and human history of the Galapagos Islands; human mythology; marine human migrations; marine paleontology and the climate record locked in marine sediments; music of the ocean; law of the sea and the ocean dumping convention; Deep Water Horizon sinking in the Gulf of Mexico; and the human costs of the 2011 Tsunami in Japan.

Jim Bishop faculty profile
Jim Bishop (Earth and Planetary Science)
Ivo Duijnstee faculty profile
Ivo Duijnstee (Integrative Biology)

Terms Offered

  • Fall 2016
  • Fall 2014
  • Fall 2012