Studying the Ocean from the Classroom to the Bay

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
July 08, 2019 - July 19, 20197/08 - 7/19M-F 8:30A-11:20AOpenAbigail Bodner
Jenna Pearson

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Course Description

At 1.33 billion cubic km and covering roughly one third of Earth’s total surface area, the global ocean is the largest body of water in the world. It’s mysteries have intrigued mankind over the course of history. Scientists have spent decades observing and understanding the wonders of the ocean. This course is designed to introduce students to the basic principles of oceanography through theory, observations and applications from its humble beginnings using Nansen bottles, up through the advent of satellites, automated vehicles, and drones. Basic physical and biogeochemical theory will allow students to explore satellite data and modeling techniques.

This course explores the basic principles of oceanography through theory, observations and applications. The first week is centered on theoretical physical oceanography and general characteristics of the ocean. This includes global ocean properties such as typical temperature and salinity profiles and distributions, the governing equations of motion, simplified balance equations, a description from small scale phenomena such as tides and waves to large scale phenomena such as oceanic gyres and meridional overturning. A field trip to Narragansett Bay will take place where students will take a boat tour of the bay and make conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) casts to observe temperature, salinity, and density profiles, launch a sediment grabber, view marine organisms on a microscope from a plankton tow, and view larger marine life from a bottom trawl. Surface ocean motion will be observed by launching floating plates into the bay and observing their dispersion.

The second week will entail more specialized lectures. The first two days introduce ocean biogeochemistry with emphasis on the carbon cycle. The next two days focus on climate dynamics and air-sea interaction. A debate will be held during the second week where students will take sides on a prominent issue related to climate variability. The last day will consist of a poster session attended by faculty, graduate students, and postdocs from the Earth, Environmental, and Planetary sciences department at Brown.

Students will be exposed to a variety of STEM subjects such as mathematics, physics, geology, chemistry, biology and climatology, as well as gain valuable hands on observational experience. In addition, students will refine presentation, analytical reading and writing abilities. Above all, students will practice critical thinking and develop independent research skills.

Prerequisites: Exposure to calculus, basic chemistry and physics will be helpful, but not necessary.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEES0920
  • Length: 2 weeks
  • Supplemental Fee: $100

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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