Course Structure

Photo of shipboard lab.
Photo of sampling rosette.

The course is comprised of lectures, laboratory work, evening colloquia, and a series of three focused symposia. Perhaps the most important component of the course will be based at sea: students will lead and participate in a 10 day research cruise in the open ocean waters of the subtropical North Pacific Ocean. Prior to embarking on the cruise, students will gain exposure to techniques used by oceanographers so that the cruise will allow the students to apply these skills to address one or more aspects of the central theme of the course.

The lectures will come from a variety of instructors, permanent and visiting faculty, and cover a broad range of topics. All of the lectures will relate to the role of microbes in shaping the ecology and biogeochemistry of the oceans. Some of the lectures will describe microbially-mediated physiological and metabolic processes, others will emphasize the roles microbes play in global biogeochemical cycles, and others will address how the diversity of microbial genomes ultimately drives the fundamental underpinnings of Earth’s climate system.

Students will be expected to read selected publications that are shaping the development of microbial oceanography. In addition, students will gain understanding of marine ecosystem models and how developments in computer sciences are aiding bioinformatics approaches to understanding marine diversity. The research cruise will provide students with an opportunity to conduct in situ measurements and analyses on microbially-mediated processes occurring in various ocean habitats.

The laboratory work is integrative; the intent is to explore and discover microbial processes and diversity in an effort to better understand how microbial activity shapes the ocean as a growth environment. Research themes are designed to educate students about current techniques in marine microbial oceanography; students will conduct research in small teams with faculty oversight.

The course requires complete student participation in all aspects of the program for the full duration of the course. Proficiency in the English language is essential. Course work begins early in the morning and may often run late into the evening. There will be limited time for activities outside of the structured course work. The co-directors of the course anticipate that the intensity of the field, lab, and classroom work will develop long-standing collaborations among the students and instructors alike.