ES9001: The Blue Planet

The oceans cover 75% of the surface of the Earth. They present a fascinating environment, and animals, plants, and microbes have adapted to the challenges and opportunities of living in the oceans in remarkable ways. We humans depend on the oceans in many ways: for example, they regulate our climate, provide food and opportunities for recreation, and support the livelihoods of many people. However, the
oceans are under increasing threat from climate change, over-exploitation of marine resources, and pollution. Yet most people know far too little about the oceans to understand how critical they are to our societies, and how they are under threat. The rationale for this course is therefore both to foster a basic fascination and appreciation for the oceans, and to foster greater ocean literacy amongst a broader section of NTU graduates who are not studying an environmental science specialisation.

Course Aims

The oceans are the largest habitat on our planet, and they are a fascinating environment that is physically, chemically, and biologically different from the land environment we humans are used to. Yet we depend on healthy oceans in many ways, for example to regulate our climate and provide food. This course aims to teach you how the oceans work as a system, and so will cover physical, chemical, and biological oceanography. You will learn about coastal environments and the open ocean, and from shallow waters to the deep abyssal plains. We will look at how ocean currents flow and why they are important, at why seawater has the chemical composition that it does, at how organisms have adapted to live in ocean environments, and at how different marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, function. The course will also examine in what ways we are threatening the health of the oceans, and how we can better preserve the oceans. The course thus aims to foster a fascination and appreciation for the oceans, and to promote ocean literacy amongst students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. As an unrestricted elective, the course will be accessible to all students with an interest in the oceans, regardless of your major programme (non-science students with an interest in the oceans are extremely welcome).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)

By the end of this course, you (as a student) will be able to: 1. Explain the basic principles of the physics, chemistry, biology, and ecology of the oceans; 2. Explain how the oceans affect Earth’s climate; 3. Distinguish different marine ecosystems based on functional characteristics; 4. Explain in what ways human activities threaten the health of the oceans, and how we might be able to mitigate these impacts; 5. Communicate the importance of the oceans to a general audience Course Content The course will consist of 11 lectures that will outline what you are expected to know by the end of the course. In the lectures, I will explain the key concepts using diagrams and figures, show video clips to visualize these concepts, occasionally perform practical demonstrations to illustrate aspects of the ocean environment, and use clicker questions to test your understanding. Your knowledge will be assessed through two mid-term multiple-choice exams. In addition, you will prepare a short video as a group assignment (3–6 students per group) in which you explain one aspect of the oceans in a way that would appeal to, and be understood by, the general public.

Link to OBTL

Patrick Martin1c

Course Instructor: Patrick Martin


Office Location: N2-01c-46