OCEAN 497 B
Associate Professor, Biological Oceanography
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Office: 318 Marine Sciences Building
Phone: 206 221 6594
Meeting place and times
Thursdays 2:30-3:50: Ocean Sciences Building 111 (Spatial Dynamics Laboratory)
Tuesdays 2:30-3:50: Ocean Sciences Building 425
Office hours (tentative): T-Th 3:00-4:00 & By Appointment
My goal for this course is help you learn how to think about how
oceanographic processes function, and how their
function changes over time and across space. Most courses I have taught
(as well as those I took as a student) operated on a lecture model: the
instructor stood at the front of the class presenting facts. It was for
the most part left to the student to develop ways of internalizing
those facts, integrating them with other related facts, and drawing
general conclusions about patterns and contrasts in those facts -- in
short, to synthesize the facts into an expertise.
A lecture-based course structure is a very effective way of presenting
a large number of facts in a relatively short time. However, a real
understanding of those facts often came to those students much later, if it
came at all. Without the understanding, the facts themselves were
probably forgotten in a relatively short time after the course was
This course focuses specifically on developing and exercising a
synthetic view of oceanographic systems and their dynamics. The basic
approach used in this course is a sequence: student observation,
followed by analysis and synthesis, followed by verbal and written
articulation of the analytical logic and the resulting patterns and
How can we observe oceanographic dynamics in a classroom? One potent
tool we have is computer-based oceanographic modeling. Computer models are
a convenient method for deducing the implications about hypotheses we
make about how ocean systems functions. They allow us to say, If characteristic
A is affected by mechanism B, then the likely outcome would be C.
They give us rapid feedback, so we can develop an intuition for how
ocean dynamics could work. We can then employ this intuition on
real systems to see whether it does or does not explain features of
Modeling on a computer does not replace going out and observing
nature. However, it provides a basis for understanding observations of
nature, which are otherwise too complicated and too variable to be
understood. This course is in large part aimed at understanding how
model studies can make interpretations of past observations and
acquisition of future observations more effective and insightful.
Course Structure (tentative)
This course is structured as a series of five units, each of which revolves around
a key mechanism; the important consequences of that mechanism for ocean
dynamics; and a model that links the mechanism to its consequences. The units are:
- Weeks 1-2: Exchanges of Energy and Mass at Microscopic Scales
- Weeks 3-4: Vertical Movement and Water Column Structure
- Weeks 5-6: Interactions among Chemical and Biological Species
- Weeks 7-8: Dynamics in Turbulence
- Weeks 9-10: Flushing and Retention in Estuaries
For each unit, a typical set of in-class activities:
Computer 1 ⇒ Discussion 1 ⇒ Computer or Wet Lab 2 ⇒ Discussion 2
- Lab 1: This class period introduces a model of an
oceanographic mechanism. This is an
opportunity to gain familiarity with the model's inputs and outputs; to
explore the types of oceanographic phenomena into which the model could
give insight; and to begin framing an analytical approach for realizing
Based on the experience of Lab 1, each of you will formulate a set of three
Key Questions that you think are important to understanding ocean
dynamics, and which the model can inform. You should both
bring these to class, and submit them online.
- Discussion 1: As a group, we will compile, discuss
and refine a summary list of Key Questions potentially addressed by the
model, and discuss the strategies through which those questions might
- Lab 2: In this class period, you will work in groups of 2-3 to
design and execute a Mini-Study,
using the model to carry out some of the analytical strategies that you
and your colleagues identified in your Key Questions and the ensuing
discussion. You will address two or three questions in each mini-study.
- Discussion 2: As a group, we will discuss the results
of the Mini-Studies (what were the conclusions, what were the strengths
and weaknesses of the study, what aspects of ocean dynamics were well or
badly treated by the model). We will interpret your results in the
context of the week's reading assignment (see below).
ReadingsEach week, you will read one or two short papers (e.g.
from Science or Nature) that describe recent advances concerning an
oceanographic issue related to the week's Lab. You should read this paper
before the week's Discussion and if possible before the Lab. It is to
your advantage to have at least one oceanographic application in mind when
you perform your modeling Mini-Study. After your Mini-Study, you should
be prepared to shift focus back to the natural world in Discussion,
exploring aspects of the paper's ocean dynamics that were or were
not illuminated by your results.
As preparation for the second discussion in each unit, you will prepare a short Essay,
in which you articulate for each of the Key Questions your
mini-study addressed: what were the goals, analytical approaches,
results and conclusions. Please submit your Essays online. Like the
Discussion itself, this Essay is intended both to refine and strengthen
your analysis, and to communicate your ideas to your colleagues.
The grading scheme for the course will be as follows (see comments below):
||Percent Grade (after
dropping lowest scores)
- Please be on time! Discussions take time; latecomers are disruptive
and hinder class progress. Another class immediately follows ours so we
must end on time, whether we are finished or not.
- Active participation in Discussion and Labs is central to the
learning experience in this course. Students are required to
participate in each Discussion and Lab. Participation means not only
being present but following and contributing to each day's discourse.
- Written assignments will be turned in electronically. Please
allow time for learning the system, if you are not already familiar
with it. Also, please be mindful of disk space constraints on UW's
system: For example, please do not send multi-megabyte graphics files
when smaller ones will do.
- Because they are preparatory to the discussions, it is
important to have Key Questions and Essays done on time. Except by
prior permission of the instructor, assignments turned in after the due
date and time will receive a maximum of 1/2 the available points.
However, you may drop the lowest score for both Key Questions and
Essays, which can include a late assignment.
- Key Questions will be graded on a 0-5 point scale (0-2.5 for
late assignments). Essays will be graded on a 0-10 point scale (0-5 for
late assignments). In both cases, the criteria will be careful
construction, insightfulness and originality of the analysis and
clarity of the exposition.
- There will be no midterm or final exams.
Useful links for registered students:
The tentative syllabus
The weekly reading assignments
The online Interest/Background Questioneer
The class listserve: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Collect It dropbox for Key Questions and Essays
A directory from which you can download Labs and Lab Guides: http://courses.washington.edu/ocean497/Labs/
To send anonymous feedback to the instructor, use this link: https://catalysttools.washington.edu/umail/form/random/3242