Humans have always been strongly drawn to the sea. The pounding of the surf can soothe us in its regularity or sometimes terrify us with its strength. Poets such as Walt Whitman have long explored its emotional symbolism and deep-rooted importance.
There is a profound interdependence and interaction between all of life and the oceans. This course presents an ecological approach that emphasizes the interactions and adaptations of life in the oceans. From this perspective, we examine the web of life and the myriad ways that living organisms adapt to each other and to their environment.
This course will deepen and build on your understanding of biological and ecological concepts and it develop your ability to read and critique ongoing scientific projects and scientific literature. Through a series of original DVDs –created just for this course– you will experience a virtual biodiversity field trip.
Marine Biology at a landlocked College – A Partnership with The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk | top
In this course, Empire State College and The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk have begun a unique partnership. As a result of our collaboration, you will take a DVD-based virtual field trip where you will sample marine organisms, participate in the testing of water quality, and learn about the taxonomy, anatomy and physiology of marine organisms as well as their economic importance. Through extensive use of the DVDs you will be (virtually) aboard the Research Vessel Oceanic on the Long Island Sound. You will visit the aquarium’s laboratory facilities and walk among the displays. In addition, the DVD on jellies will provide you with a unique behind the scenes perspective on marine organism husbandry.
We also use the videos and on-line aquarium resources to explore the marine biology behind local issues such as the impact of pollution on water quality and the shellfish economy. You’ll also see how marine biologists work in the field. The course DVDs demonstrate how parameters such as dissolved oxygen, salinity, nitrogen, and phosphorus levels are measured. We will discuss the theory and practice of such measurements including how they vary with depth, time of day, and season. The video will especially focus on the importance of dissolved oxygen in the health of Long Island Sound, the history of hypoxic events, and the role of cultural eutrophication. A discussion of the economic and environmental impacts of low oxygen is included. In all cases, the discussion will use the Sound as a microcosm of larger environmental concerns and encourage wide-ranging geographic applications and integration.
Virtual Field Trip | top
Many online science courses have an important drawback when compared to those taken in a traditional college setting; students are usually not able to participate in laboratory and field studies or experience science in action with its practical considerations and breathtaking immediacy. With the development of this course, and its achievement of an innovative partnership – all that is changing.
Science is a human activity: a mode of inquiry and learning. It is based on observations of the natural world, the measurement of physical parameters, and the compilation and analysis of data. For example, chemical tests reveal vital information about seawater composition; dissections can reveal inner beauty, awesome complexity, and different solutions to life’s challenges. Observing the interaction of structure and function can open our eyes to hidden similarities and relationships among all living organisms.
Careful observations of living animals in their habitat and in the laboratory provide valuable insights and information about such wide-ranging topics as methods of movement, effective defensive strategies, and keen sensory perception. In addition, as you wander behind the scenes of the aquarium, you will observe the work of caring professionals as they nurture different life stages of jellies with careful husbandry. The aquarists work to provide the delicate balance of nutrients, temperature, light, and space that must be maintained for healthy specimens.
As a human activity, science can have its pitfalls, pratfalls, and problems. Did your feet get wet when the wave sloshed over the deck? Did you overfill the test tube when testing for nitrogen levels? Did you spill the reagent or lose count in your titration of the water sample; did the frantic lobster from the otter trawl nip you? How tiring is it to haul up the loaded and heavy mud grab? Were you able to focus the microscope before the amphipod swam out of view? Most of the time, information in scientific papers leaves out the process, challenges, and frustrations of actually “doing” science. Viewing science in action –fieldwork and laboratory activities– on the DVDs provides a new perspective and appreciation for science as an “action adventure”.
Through online discussions of research studies, you will examine competing hypotheses and frame new questions. Critical thinking will be emphasized as will the development and demonstration of the ability to read, discuss, and reason through scientific and technical studies.
If you can travel to The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and be part of one of their biodiversity cruises, you will experience the beauty and biology of Long Island Sound while listening to their topnotch marine educators. If you can’t make the trip you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy these amazing videos and experience the cruise, the aquarium, and the educators as an integral part of our course. You can delight in the sight of sponges, horseshoe crabs, flounder, and amphipods up close!
Get ready! The sky is blue, the water is slate gray and the only thing missing is the pungent sharp smell of salty sea air and the cold wind whipping your hair. We take a field trip in this course and then spend time in the lab and behind the scenes at the aquarium. We watch the sampling devices being lowered into the water and see strained muscles tugging on the pulley’s rope. We are there getting a first look at what is caught in the nets. We see the living organisms pulled up from the waters of Long Island Sound and observe their anatomy, adaptations, behaviors and interactions. Some of the laboratory procedures call for you to observe and take notes; some will invite participation in record keeping, data analysis, and graphing. Welcome aboard our course!