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BIOL 104 OCEANOGRAPHY: The Marine Environment

Please print out this course description and read it before proceeding with the course.

Instructor:            Jill Nissen

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce the student to the four major disciplines in ocean sciences: biological, chemical, geological and physical oceanography. These areas are studied by describing the composition of the oceans and then by examining the major processes which are active there, such as plate tectonics, ocean circulation, wave and tidal action and food webs. In addition, the course will cover man’s use of the ocean as a natural resource and as a waste disposal site. (3 hours weekly).


 This course requires good reading, writing, and mathematical skills. Before enrolling in BIOL-104 you should have satisfactory assessment tests scores and/or completed any remedial coursework in English and math.

Course Objectives

After completing this course you will be able to:

  • Describe the origin of the solar system, the Earth, and the ocean basins. 
  • Compare and contrast historical and current ocean related measurement techniques.
  • Describe the unique properties of water and sea water in particular. 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the physical and chemical processes that affect the character of beaches and shorelines in general.
  • Appreciate the biological adaptations of organisms living in the intertidal region.
  • Discuss the concept of plate tectonics and how it unifies many marine geological observations.
  • Compare and contrast active and passive continental margins.
  • Visualize the topography of the sea floor.
  • Define the classification of island types.
  • Describe the Earth's radiation balance and how that drives atmospheric circulation.
  • Recognize the processes that drive oceanic circulation.
  • Discuss how waves are formed and why they break.
  • Identify the forces responsible for tides.
  • Classify and describe marine plankton.
  • Recognize the hierarchy of marine organisms.
  • Recognize and discuss the various adaptations of marine organisms.
  • Identify methods of symbiosis.
  • Demonstrate and understand the behavior of light and sound in the open ocean.
  • Compare and contrast the tropics and polar oceans.
  • Articulate the problems and issues associated with exploitation of biological and mineral resources from the sea.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive or chronological. More specific objectives will be given with the lecture material.

Required Texts and Materials

Textbook information:  To visit our bookstore's online sales site, please visit and follow the instructions for selecting textbooks.

Course Format

For more information, see the "Written Assignments" and “Discussion Assignments” sections below.

  • This class does not have a face-to-face orientation.
  • This class does not have required on-campus meetings.
  • This class does not require real-time chats.
  • This class does have required on-campus exams (for more information, see the "Exams" section below).

Written Assignments 

  • Some of the types of assignments that you will be required to complete may include:
    • Read a chapter in the textbook and answer questions pertaining to the material.
    • Complete a web activity at home and discuss your results online with the class
    • Complete a hands-on activity at home and discuss your results online with the class.
    • Read reference material which the instructor has provided and discuss the reading with the class.
    • Write a research paper or prepare a PowerPoint presentation on an assigned topic.
  • Your written assignments will be submitted to me via Canvas and should be saved as a Microsoft Word (or .txt or .rtf) file to ensure readability by me. You are responsible for maintaining electronic copies of all of your written work in case of the need for revision or re-submission.
  • Guidelines and deadlines for each assignment will be posted in Canvas under Assignments. The deadlines for each assignment will also be posted on the course calendar. As a rule, you will have at least one week to complete assignments and upload them to the appropriate Canvas Assignment for full credit.
  • Late assignments received within one week of the due date will be graded for a maximum of half credit. Any assignments received more than one week after the due date will be graded for zero credit. It is your responsibility to know the course schedule and plan accordingly. Early assignments are cheerfully accepted!

Discussion Assignments

Discussion assignments must be posted in the appropriate Canvas Discussion Board topic by the deadline noted in the assignment guidelines. In addition, sometimes students will be required to respond to at least two fellow student’s responses. In an online class, these postings and reactions are how we establish a dialogue in the class, so they are a very important part of the course and as such they will constitute a significant portion of the points for several assignments


  • You will be required to take three on-campus proctored exams. All exams are closed book/closed note and must be taken in the HCC test center or at another approved test center.
  • The syllabus and calendar will list due dates for exams. It is your responsibility to know the course schedule and plan accordingly.
  • Students are expected to take each exam in the scheduled time frame. You will have a window of at least three days in which to take each exam. No make-up exams will be given after the deadline has passed.

Required Viewers, Plug-ins, or Players

Visit the Distance Learning homepage and use the link provided in the “Support for Registered Students” area link to download plug-ins The following plug-ins are required for this class:

  • Acrobat Viewer 
  • Excel Viewer, if you don’t have the full version of Microsoft Excel
  • Flash
  • Internet Explorer
  • Java installed and enabled
  • PowerPoint Viewer, if you don’t have the full version of Microsoft PowerPoint
  • QuickTime
  • Real Player
  • Windows Media Player
  • Word Viewer, if you don’t have the full version of Microsoft Word

Class Communications: What to Expect from Your Instructor

  • I will read assignments/discussion forums and provide comments/responses once daily Monday through Friday.
  • Your activities and assignments will be graded within 7 days following the due date.
  • Your exams will be graded within 7 days following the deadline.
  • The fastest and best way to reach me is by e-mail. I read and respond to messages once daily Monday through Friday.
  • Please email me if you would like to make an appointment to go over work in progress, clarify points you do not understand, or talk about the subject matter in general. Meetings may be conducted by telephone at a mutually convenient time.

Updated: 30-April 14 Howard Community College


Student Profile - Maribel