GEOS 110
Oceans and Society Fall 2023
Division III
Cross-listed ENVI 109 / MAST 110
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Oceans impact society in many ways: they provide much of our protein, they hide untapped mineral wealth, their circulation regulates global climate, they transport and accumulate our plastic garbage, marine storms batter coastal infrastructure, and sea-level rise threatens communities. However, despite the oceans’ importance throughout history–for trade, as a source of food, and because of their unpredictable dangers–we know shockingly little about them. More than 6000 people have reached the summit of Everest, Earth’s highest elevation; but only 22 have visited Challenger Deep, the deepest point below the ocean surface. We have mapped the surfaces of Mars and Venus in far more detail than the topography of Earth’s ocean basins. New marine organisms are discovered regularly. And we still don’t fully understand the complex details of how ocean and atmosphere work together as the planet’s climate engine. In this course, you will examine ocean science themes with direct societal relevance that are also at the forefront of scientific investigation. Topics will be selected based on current events, but are likely to include deep sea mining, meridional overturning, sea level rise, atmospheric rivers, and aquaculture. By taking focused dives into a range of subjects you will learn about the evolution and operation of the ocean as a physical and geological system as well as investigating the intersections between ocean functions, climate change, and human societies. Exercises and discussions will foreground active learning. A field trip to the Atlantic coast will integrate experiential investigation of the intersection between coastal change, extreme weather, and communities. The aim is to have energised interdisciplinary discussions about topics of pressing societal relevance, to understand some of the fundamentals of ocean science, to develop expertise in gathering and distilling information by researching new topics, and thereby to improve critical and analytical thinking.
The Class: Format: lecture/laboratory; Two 75-minute lecture/discussion meetings each week; 2-hour lab every second week; one all-day field trip to the Atlantic coast.
Limit: 60
Expected: 60
Class#: 1418
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Evaluation is based on engagement with in-class activities, six graded lab exercises, four short writing/research assignments, and a five-page term paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: First year and second year students
Unit Notes: This course and GEOS 104 Oceanography cannot both be taken for credit.
Distributions: Division III
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENVI 109 Division III GEOS 110 Division III MAST 110 Division III
Attributes: ENVI Natural World Electives
EXPE Experiential Education Courses
MAST Interdepartmental Electives

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