California Coastal Oceanography
“How inappropriate to call this planet ‘Earth’, when it is clearly ‘Ocean’.” –Arthur C. Clarke
The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored. The ocean is home to more than one million species and plays an integral role in many of the Earth’s systems, including climate and weather. Oceanography involves the study of the entire ocean, from the shallow coastal areas to the deepest trenches.
California Coastal Oceanography is designed to present an integrated overview of the principles and concepts of the geology, chemistry, physics, and biology of the California coastal environment. The course begins with a description of the Pacific Ocean Basin and the mechanism of its evolution. Next, the chemical properties of seawater and the role of the Pacific Ocean in elemental cycles, particularly the carbon cycle will be examined. The discussion of physical oceanography includes large-scale patterns such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, as well as, small-scale phenomena such as waves. The geology of the coastal ocean, beaches, and estuaries leads into a discussion of the ocean’s major communities and the biotic and physical factors structuring them. The course emphasizes critical thinking, scientific processes, and interrelationships among disciplines. It does not include cuddling with sea otters or swimming with dolphins. Students are expected to be self-motivated, able to comprehend and analyze scientific papers, collaborate on numerous project-based assignments, and complete a significant amount of independent work. The ability to commit to field trips and fieldwork are required for this course. Students should expect to spend 2 hours a week outside for this course and 1.5 to 2 hours indoors reading, analyzing, and sharing data. This course is well suited for students who are self motivated, interested in the marine sciences, field and lab work, and who want to spend more time outside!
The class meets every other week during mutually agreed upon times (typically evenings 8:30 pm to 9:15 pm) through Zoom (virtual) meetings to check in, build community and share work. California Coastal Oceanography will end the year with a culminating project that is designed to assess student depth of knowledge and sustained mastery of subject material. This project will join two scientific disciplines (e.g., environmental science and oceanography) together to demonstrate how closely coastal ocean health is linked to land use and upstream pollution. Students will have the freedom to design a project that will investigate an aspect of water quality and the implications of fecal pathogen pollution on ecosystems and human health. They will develop novel hypotheses using background research and critical thinking. Once data are collected, students will add their findings to a large statewide database that public health managers and the Regional Water Quality Control Board can use to regulate recreational waters.
Face to Face outings: These F2F outings are a required part of the course and integral to your success in this course!
- Overnight to Point Reyes National Seashore
- Blue Water Task Force Water Sampling
- Derek M. Baylis Research Cruise – San Francisco Bay
- Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Tidepooling
- The Marine Mammal Center Tour and Necropsy
Stori Oates – Marin Academy
Stori currently teaches AP Environmental Science, California Coastal Oceanography, and is the Marin Academy Research Collaborative (MARC) Program Coordinator at Marin Academy. She is a freshman advisor, volunteers with Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force to involve students in coastal water quality monitoring, and weight trains with the girls basketball team. Stori received her B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Environmental Studies) and a M.S. in Marine Science from San Jose State University and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
Stori is both a teacher and a research scientist. Before coming to MA, she taught General Biology and Human Biology at Hartnell College in Salinas, and worked at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz, CA. Stori maintains ties to the One Health Institute at the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where she also worked to investigate the health and disease of marine species throughout California.
Stori lives in Fairfax with her husband, History teacher Bill Meyer, where they have a tripod dog, two cats, and seven tortoises. She has great stories to tell about the sea otters she has come across during her research.