Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
GS 108
Course Title:
Physical Science (Oceanography)
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Includes the chemical, biological, physical and geological nature of the oceans. Includes weekly lab. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 65 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

The purpose of this course is to develop an understanding of the chemical, biological, physical, and geological processes related to the ocean, and include historical perspectives. It is a one-term survey course that may be included as part of the year€™s sequence in physical science for college transfer credit. The course will have as many of the following components as feasible:  lectures, discussions, lab activities, videos, CDs, slides, and computer aided instruction. It is necessary to successfully complete the lab part of the course in order to pass the course.  

The faculty has chosen the text and lab materials and the viewpoints shall be that of the author(s). This includes the topics of relativity, the geologic time scale, and the evolution of the Earth, solar system, and the galaxy and universe.

Regarding the teaching of basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution), the Portland Community College Geology Department stands by the following statements about what is science.

  • Science is a fundamentally non-dogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process.  A scientific theory is neither a guess, dogma, nor myth.  The theories developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance, but can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation. 
  • €œCreation science,€ also known as scientific creationism, is not considered a legitimate science, but a form of religious advocacy.  This position is established by legal precedence (Webster v. New Lenox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1004). 
  • Geology instructors at Portland Community College will teach the generally accepted basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution) not as absolute truth, but as the most widely accepted explanation for our observations of the world around us.  Instructors will not teach that €œcreation science€ is anything other than pseudoscience.    
  • Because "creation science", "scientific creationism", and "intelligent design" are essentially religious doctrines that are at odds with open scientific inquiry, the Geology/General Sciences SAC at Portland Community College stands with such organizations such as the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geological Institute in excluding these doctrines from our science curriculum.

Students are expected to be able to read and comprehend college-level science texts and perform basic mathematical operations to successfully complete this course.  

Intended Outcomes for the course

A student who successfully completes this course should be able to:

  1. Use an understanding of waves, tides, and coastal processes to explain the development and functioning of beaches, shorelines and estuaries.
  2. Use an understanding of ocean structure and processes to explain the spatial and temporal distribution of biological productivity in the world ocean.
  3. Access ocean science information from a variety of sources, evaluate the quality of this information, and compare this information with current models of ocean processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  4. Make field and laboratory based observations and measurements of ocean materials and marine processes, use scientific reasoning to interpret these observations and measurements, and compare the results with current models of ocean processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  5. Use scientifically valid modes of inquiry, individually and collaboratively, to critically evaluate the hazards and risks posed by ocean processes both to themselves and society as a whole, evaluate the efficacy of possible ethically robust responses to these risks, and effectively communicate the results of this analysis to their peers.
  6. Assess the contributions of oceanography to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of oceanography in its historical and cultural context.

Course Activities and Design

The laboratory is not separate from the lecture, but will usually be correlated in such a way as to reinforce the materials being discussed in the lecture section. It is necessary for the student to successfully complete the laboratory portion of the course in order to earn a grade in the course. Math will be used to solve ratio, percentage, and simple algebraic problems. Also included are the designing, reading, and interpreting of graphs.  

Outcome Assessment Strategies

The instructor will choose from the following methods of assessment:  exams, quizzes, lab exercises, written reports, oral reports, group projects, class participation, homework assignments, and field trips.  The instructor shall detail the methods to be used to the students at the beginning of the class.  

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

(note: topics may be selected in any order by each instructor)  

  • Explain the nature and history of oceanography as a science
  • Discuss the structure and evolution of the earth€™s ocean basins and coastlines.
  • Discuss the mechanics of waves, currents, and tides
  • Describe the major chemical and physical properties of seawater and the interaction of these properties.
  • Discuss marine biology in terms of habitats and zones, life in the oceans.
  • Discuss how humans impact the marine environment in terms of resources from the sea and marine pollution.
  • Other topics as desired by the instructor.

Topics to be covered include: 

Oceanography as a science 

  • The scientific method as it applies to oceanography
  • Major divisions of oceanography
  • Brief history of oceanography

Marine geology 

  • Major seafloor features and bathymetric mapping
  • The earth€™s internal structure and structure of oceanic crust
  • Surficial processes related to the oceans €“ Mass wasting, stream flow, groundwater, glaciers, wind, waves, and ocean currents
  • Tectonic processes related to the oceans €“ Volcanism, crustal deformation, and plate tectonics.
  • Major rock types
  • Seafloor sediment €“ Classification, formation, and distribution

Physical oceanography 

  • Seawater - Physical properties, measurement, and geography
  • Surface and deep ocean currents €“ Mechanics, measurement, and geography
  • Waves €“ Basics physics and types
  • Tides €“ Mechanics, measurement, and prediction

Marine biology

  • Marine organisms and adaptation
  • Marine organisms and ecological relationships €“ Food webs, energy flow, and populations
  • Marine environments €“ Types, physical conditions, inhabitants and adaptations, ecological relationships.
  • Human impact €“ The impact of resource extraction from and contamination of marine environments.