Approved by Faculty Senate

The purpose of the Natural Science requirement in the University Studies program is to provide students with the tools to understand and be able to apply the methods by which scientific inquiry increases our understanding of the natural world.

GEOS 110 is a 70-student introductory general-education lecture section (offered for 3 credits) with an optional laboratory section (students enroll for 4 credits. The course addresses the major themes and outcomes of the Natural Science category.

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

  1. understand how scientists approach and solve problems in the natural sciences;
  2. Students are given ample opportunity to understand how scientists approach and solve problems relevant to oceanography. Students are taught the scientific method, and are asked each day to apply that method to understanding problems in Oceanography. They are also taught the unique methods employed in interpreting and solving geologic problems. This is accomplished by studying how oceanographers, have made and continue to make observations and collect data related to ocean basins, ocean water, and the processes that affect its properties, movement, and the life that it supports. We then use these observations to pose questions regarding the world ocean. These questions in turn suggest multiple-working hypotheses or explanations that are tested by continuing to gather more observations and data, and retaining those explanations that are most consistent with the observations.


  3. apply those methods to solve problems that arise in the natural sciences;
  4. Throughout the semester, students are presented with realistic problems in Oceanography. Students are challenged to apply concepts learned in class to solve these problems and make predictions about ocean features and processes. Problem-solving activities range from short, in-class questions, to problem-sets assigned as homework, to laboratory activities (for those students enrolled in the laboratory). The problems are necessarily simplified when compared to those that face practicing oceanographers today because this is an introductory general-education course with no prerequisites (particularly in mathematics and physics). However, given the level of the course, they are realistic problems that raise students’ awareness of issues relevant to the discipline. Students are additionally asked to solve problems on exams.

  5. use inductive reasoning, mathematics, or statistics to solve problems in natural science;
  6. Students are given problems in this course that require them to work with simple mathematical relations. Such applications will be especially emphasized during our study of: rates of sea-floor spreading; calculations of salinity and residence times of the chemical constituents of sea water; calculations of density variations of sea water resulting from temperature and salinity changes; and determination of rates of loss of beach sand as a consequence of coastal processes. Furthermore, Most laboratory exercises will involve and mathematics to analyze and interpret scientific data. Laboratories will involve data collection, analysis, and interpretation based on experiments conducted by students, experiments conducted by others, and "natural experiments" conducted by the oceans themselves.

    In addition to mathematical reasoning, students are asked to make almost daily use of inductive reasoning to solve realistic geologic problems related to Oceanography. After learning about oceanographic processes, students are presented with real data and observations from the world ocean, often times from the web. They are then asked to think through solutions based on these observations and processes.

  7. engage in independent and collaborative learning;
  8. Students in oceanography will use both independent thinking and collaborative learning to understand how ocean processes affect not only the geology, chemistry, physics, and biology of the world ocean, but also Earth’s atmosphere and lithosphere. Collaborative learning will take place in the classroom as well as the laboratory, even though the lecture is delivered to a relatively large group. Students will break out into small groups to address problem solving in all the major topical areas of the course. Most laboratory work will be done in teams, where students collect and analyze data in pairs or groups of three. The ultimate responsibility for reaching scientific conclusions from data analysis lies, however, with the individual student. Independent learning is ensured by assigned problem sets, and in-class exams. In addition, the course web page provides daily lessons for each student to complete prior to class. These lessons illustrate the sorts of thinking that students are expected to achieve related to the topic at hand.


  9. identify, find, and use the tools of information science as it relates to natural science;
  10. Students in oceanography will identify, find, and use the tools of information science relating to oceanography. Individual and group assignments are made that require students to use the web and library databases to research selected problems and to prepare short written reports on the results of their work. These reports will be submitted to the instructor via e-mail. The textbook is web-based and provides students with tools to search the web for pertinent information on all aspects of the course. The text also has a website that students can use to search for additional information, and the instructor makes use of a course web site with many links to oceanographic sites.

  11. critically evaluate both source and content of scientific information; and
  12. Students in this course are presented large quantities of data relating ocean features and ocean processes. Some of these data are potentially conflicting. Students must sort through the information, and by applying the scientific method, come to a reasonable interpretation of the data. One good example of this process relates to understanding the origin of El Nino and its effects on ocean circulation. There is considerable lack of agreement on the nature of cause and effect in the El Nino system. Students learn about results of current oceanographic measurements of sea-surface temperature measurements, then must determine what the temperature patterns through time indicate regarding ocean circulation, areas of high and low atmospheric pressure, and resulting climatic patterns. Students must then determine for themselves what the cause of El Nino may be, and to test their ideas against current scientific thinking about the problem. Conflicting data are evaluated to give students a better sense of how scientific data are processed.

  13. recognize and correct scientific misconceptions.


One of the main goals of this course is to help students recognize and correct the misconceptions they hold regarding the science of oceanography. In the context of this course, misconceptions addressed range from misunderstanding of the way energy moves through the sea in the form of waves, to misunderstanding the origin of tides, to misconceptions that students hold regarding the distribution of life in the sea. Discrepant demonstrations or explanations are used whenever possible to force students to recognize and confront their misconceptions; these are followed by class activities designed to help students overcome and replace these misconceptions with accurate representations of scientific concepts.

Courses that satisfy the laboratory requirement in the Natural Sciences will additionally provide students the opportunity to practice scientific inquiry through hands-on investigations and to analyze and report the results of those investigations.

This course offers students the option of enrolling for laboratory credit. Students enrolled in the lab portion of the course are asked to explore concepts in oceanography in more detail than students in the lecture-only section of the course. The laboratory syllabus indicates the scope of topics covered. Each laboratory exercise is designed to give students the opportunity to engage in hands-on investigation of a variety of topics in oceanography. Each laboratory exercise asks students to investigate and collect data, and then to interpret their results in the context of course material. Their final results are reported in a variety of ways, including written reports, completion of data analysis sheets, and short interpretations of spreadsheets.






Dr. James H. Meyers

PA 114-H 457-5266



Description and purpose


Oceanography is a three- or four-credit introductory –level course that satisfies the university studies requirement in the natural sciences. The four-credit option includes a laboratory that meets weekly. This option meets the university studies laboratory requirement in the natural sciences. Students in "oceanography" will explore the world ocean and the geological, chemical, physical and biological processes which control:

1. Evolution of the ocean basins, the sea floor, and its sediment cover

2. Origin and composition of sea water and its physical properties

3. Waves, ocean currents and ocean circulation, and tides

4. Life in the sea, with emphasis on marine ecology.


Each student studying oceanography will gain an understanding and awareness of the complexity and inter-relatedness of processes that affect the world ocean, and how these ocean processes affect the hydrosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere of the entire planet.



University Studies Outcomes

The purpose of the Natural Science requirement in the University Studies program is to provide students with the tools to understand and be able to apply the methods by which scientific inquiry increases our understanding of the natural world.

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

a. understand how scientists approach and solve problems in the natural sciences;

b. apply those methods to solve problems that arise in the natural sciences;

c. use inductive reasoning, mathematics, or statistics to solve problems in natural science;

d. engage in independent and collaborative learning;

e. identify, find, and use the tools of information science as it relates to natural science;

f. critically evaluate both source and content of scientific information; and

g. recognize and correct scientific misconceptions.

Courses that satisfy the laboratory requirement in the Natural Sciences will additionally provide students the opportunity to practice scientific inquiry through hands-on investigations and to analyze and report the results of those investigations.

Course activities described throughout the remainder of this syllabus will be coded to the above list of outcomes by the corresponding letter. These outcomes will be integrated throughout course content—each new topic will be presented in a manner in which the student will be able to understand and apply the methods by which scientists approach and solve problems in the natural sciences, using inductive reasoning or mathematics (outcomes a-c). Common scientific misconceptions will be identified at the start of each topic, and class material will be directed toward correcting those misconceptions (outcome g). You will be asked to work collaboratively on certain in-class activities and independently on homework and exams (outcome d). In-class and homework assignments will require that you work with the internet, textbook web site, course web site, and other sources to critically evaluate scientific information as it relates to Oceanography (outcomes e, f). If you are enrolled in this course for laboratory credit, you will be required to attend weekly lab meetings. During those meetings, you will have the opportunity to engage in hands-on scientific investigation of oceanographic phenomena, and will be required to analyze and report the results of your investigations (laboratory outcome).


Logistics and Policies

This course is designed to stimulate and challenge your thinking (outcomes a, b, c, f, g). There are no prerequisites for this course. If you can balance your checkbook, you can do all the math that will be required (outcome c). You are expected to understand and apply fundamental concepts (outcomes a, b, c, e, f, g), rather than to simply memorize information, on exams. You should strive to achieve as complete and sound a scientific interpretation as possible, by trying to integrate information across discrete chapters of the text.

Because scientific understanding does not usually progress in a vacuum—it is through discussions and arguments with colleagues that most advances stem—you are encouraged to work in groups and to discuss your ideas and to work through confusing concepts with your classmates. One of the best ways to study and understand and learn is to form a small study group—quiz one another. Make up questions that you think will be on the exam, and be certain you can answer them. If you can accurately explain a concept to your peers, then you can feel comfortable that you understand it. If you’re confused in doing this, you’re likely to be confused about the material. (outcome d)

Class attendance is essential for success. You are responsible for knowing what is covered and assigned in class regardless of whether or not you are present. Assignments will not be accepted on papers torn out of notebooks; all assignments must be neat, legible, and on paper with clean edges. I will not regurgitate a lecture during office hours simply because you chose not to attend class. Videos shown in class will not be made available outside of class. Attendance and participation will affect the outcome of your final grade.

Cheating of any kind will result in a score of zero for that exam or assignment (which cannot be dropped in the computation of your final grade), and you will be reported to university authorities. If you discuss an assignment with someone else, you are both expected to write up your answers individually and in your own words. It is a violation of academic honesty (in other words, cheating) to turn in answers copied from another students paper, even if you worked together to achieve the answer!


Guidelines for surviving a large lecture class at WSU: Here is some advice and some observations about how to achieve at your highest academic level in a large enrollment course.


Arrive on time! The first five minutes of class are often the most important part of the entire lecture. I usually use them to discuss how the day’s topics fit into the broader goals of the course, and where the course is headed in the next few lectures. Important logistical information like homework assignments and items that will and won’t be on exams, are often discussed here as well. Everyone is unavoidably late now and then, but my experience is that most students who consistently arrive a few minutes late for the lecture also receive a poor final grade in the course.


Assignments- The course outline summarizes readings in the textbook. Assignments should be read before coming to class, so that more effective listening, individual and group participation, and note-taking can take place. Following class, notes should be reviewed together with careful re-reading of the assignments. If this is done on a regular basis, performance will be enhanced. Classroom sessions will be more meaningful and discussion will be possible. Assignments will not generally be announced. You are responsible for following the course outline.



Course Web Page- Consult the course web page daily. There you will find class announcements, assignments, links to web sites that provide additional study materials related to all aspects of the course, links to self-testing, and daily lessons for you to complete that illustrate the kinds of reasoning you are expected to achieve.


Use email often if you have access to it. Get access to it if you don’t have it yet. Electronic mail has become the basic means of communication among scientists. You’ll find that I answer most email messages and queries within minutes. Don’t hesitate to ask questions this way. My email address is:


Study for the exams mainly from your lecture notes. The lectures, labs, and book all cover somewhat different topics, at different levels of detail. It would be silly if it were otherwise: why do the same thing three times? My lectures excerpt that portion of the book that I feel is most important for the course. The main purpose of the book is to allow you to hear things in a different voice, quietly, at your own pace, to help you figure out puzzling things from the classes. You will receive a handout that provides suggestions for good note-taking in this course.


Consultation - I will be available for consultation throughout the semester and you are urged to keep in touch, especially if you are having difficulty. Office hours are posted on my door (PA 114-H). If these hours are in conflict with your schedule, please make other arrangements with me. My telephone extension is 5266 and e-mail is


Testing and Grading


Three regular examinations will be given. Each exam will be announced one week in advance. The format of the exams will be entirely multiple choice. Bring a scantron, pencil and good eraser to each exam. A final examination will be given during the final examination period. The final will emphasize the last segment of the course. However, approximately 1/3 to 1/4 of this exam will also include material from the earlier portions of the course.

Exams are announced well in advance and students are obliged to take exams at the scheduled times. The obvious reason for the exam policy is fairness to the entire class. If you do not think you can abide by this policy, you should drop the course as soon as possible.

If you miss an exam, you are expected to take a make-up. Note that a penalty of 10% of the maximum points attainable per late day will be deducted from the score of those who miss an exam because of an unexcused absence. Examples of unexcused absences include but are not limited to: attendance at weddings, convenient rides home, oversleeping, and unpreparedness. Examples of excusable absences include verifiable illness and family emergency. For excused absences, prior notice must be given by contacting the instructor before the scheduled time of the examination. And written documentation verifying the necessity for the absence must be presented to the instructor before taking the makeup exam. For excused absences, you must take the test the following weekday of the emergency day, or the deduction penalty goes into effect. If you are in doubt of the status of a pending absence, discuss the matter with the instructor prior to the examination date. In the event that a snow-day falls on the same date as a scheduled exam, the exam will be given during the next class meeting following the snow day, so come prepared.

Dishonesty on an exam constitutes forfeiture of the exam grade. During testing times, students are expected to sit as far from neighbors as possible and to keep their answers secure. Different versions of each exam will be distributed throughout the class to provide greater assurance of honest assessment.


Homework and in-class assignments: work will be assigned at various times through the quarter; these assignments will be worth a portion of your final grade. Due dates for homework assignments will be announced in class at the time they are assigned. Missing class is NOT an excuse for turning in late assignments. Late assignments will NOT be accepted. Opportunities to earn extra-credit points will be announced randomly in class. These opportunities will only be available to those students who are present in class (if you miss class, you miss your chance).

If you are enrolled in a laboratory section, you will receive only one final grade for this course, not separate grades for lecture and lab. Remember that the lab counts as 25% of your course grade. A lab attendance policy and completion of lab work policy will be in effect (see below).


No student will pass the course without completing all exams and achieving a passing average. . Because this class counts for general-education laboratory credit (if you take the lab), students enrolled in a laboratory section who miss more than three lab sessions, or fail to complete more than three laboratory exercises by the assigned deadlines, cannot pass the course.



Non-laboratory students

Exam 1 15%

Exam 2 20%

Exam 3 25%

Exam 4 30%

Assignments 10%

Laboratory students

Exam 1 11.25%

Exam 2 15%

Exam 3 18.75%

Exam 4 22.5%

Laboratory 25%

Assignments 7.5%


Grading scale:

A 80%-

B 70-79%

C 60-69%

D 50-59%

E <50%


Course Outline


I. Introduction and history of oceanography (ch.1)

II. Studying the oceans (ch. 2)

III. Geological oceanography

A. Marine provinces - sea-floor topography (Ch. 3)

B. Plate tectonics and origin of ocean basins (Ch. 3)

C. Marine sediments (Ch. 6)


IV. Chemical oceanography

A. Properties of sea water (Ch. 5, P. 112-124)

B. Constituents of seawater (Ch. 5, P. 112-124)

C. Excess volatiles and origin of sea water (Ch. 5, P. 112-124)

V. Physical oceanography

A. Physical properties of seawater (Ch. 5, P. 125-142)

B. Earth's heat budget and atmospheric circulation (Ch. 7)

C. Surface oceanic circulation (Ch. 8)

D. Vertical oceanic circulation (Ch. 8)

E. Waves (Ch. 9)

F. Tides (Ch. 10)

VI. Coasts (Ch. 11)

VII. Biological oceanography

A. Foundations of ocean life (ch. 12)

B. Coastal oceans and estuaries (ch. 13)

C. Marine ecology (Ch. 14)

D. Ocean ecosystems (ch. 15)

VIII. Ocean uses and pollution (Ch. 16)



Segar, D.A., 1998, Ocean Sciences: Wadsworth Publishing Co., Belmont, California, 497 p.



WINTER, 1997-1998

Dr. James H. Meyers

PA 11 4-H 457-5266

Description and Purpose

Most laboratory exercises will simulate ocean processes. Data gathered from these experiments will be used to reach scientific conclusions. Each lab exercise will be preceded by discussion and will supplement material being considered at that time in the lecture portion of the course. Students will write brief reports on each lab. These reports will form the basis for the laboratory portion of the course grade.

Laboratory outline - tentative

Lab topics Geologic features of the world ocean and their geographic distribution

Bathymetry and geologic features of the oceans

Sea-floor spreading and magnetic anomalies

Salinity of seawater (meet in chemistry lab)

Density of seawater (meet in chemistry lab)

Heat capacity of seawater (meet in chemistry lab)

Convection and stable density distribution in the sea (meet in chemistry lab)

Ocean circulation



Coastal Development and evolution

Coastal development and evoluti


Laboratory Mechanics

1. Attendance is required. A zero for that exercise will be assigned for each unexcused absence. Excuses for illness require a note from a physician or the university health center.

2. Completed exercises will not be accepted after the beginning of the following week's lab. Each exercise will count 1O points unless otherwise announced.

3. Missing more than three lab sessions and/or failure to complete three or more laboratory exercises by the assigned deadlines will result in failure for the entire course.

4. Your points from the laboratory count 25% of your course grade, and you will receive one grade in the course