Physical Science (Oceanography)

Course Number: GS 108
Transcript Title: Phys Science (Oceanography)
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: June 6, 2017
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 30
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 30
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit
Repeats available for credit: 0


MTH 65 or equivalent placement test scores

Prerequisite / Concurrent

Course Description

Includes the chemical, biological, physical and geological nature of the oceans. Includes weekly lab. Prerequisite: MTH 65 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

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 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.

Alignment with Institutional Core Learning Outcomes

In-depth 1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)


2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)
3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)


4. Appreciate cultural diversity and constructively address issues that arise out of cultural differences in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)


5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

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 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.

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.

Department Notes

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 text and materials have been chosen by the faculty and the emphasis of the course will be the viewpoint of the author(s). This includes relativity, the geologic time scale, and the evolution of the Earth, our solar system, our galaxy, and the universe at large.

Columbia Gorge Community College Science Department stands by the following statement about regarding science instruction:

Science is a fundamentally nondogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process. Theories (such as biological evolution and geologic time scale) are developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance. As such, scientific theories can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation. "Creation science", "Intelligent design" or similar beliefs are not considered 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).

The Science Department at Columbia Gorge Community College therefore stands with organizations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers in opposing the inclusion of pseudo-sciences in our science curricula except to reference and/or clarify its invalidity.

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