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Coastal Marine Ecosystems

Coastal Marine Ecosystems is a rigorous introduction to marine ecology and scientific inquiry using the coast of Maine as classroom and laboratory. The Gulf of Maine is one of the most rapidly changing ecosystems on our planet; here, amidst shifting baselines, we study the diversity of life in the ocean and the ecological processes that sustain life on our “blue planet.” We will observe the vast diversity of marine ecosystems, identify environmental change on many different scales, and infer the potential for adaptation. From the rocky intertidal, to the oceanic microbes supporting marine food webs, to the salt marshes that provide refuge for commercially important fisheries and buffer human communities from storms, we immerse ourselves in fieldwork to examine the organisms and ecological processes that make each habitat unique. Through student-driven research projects, we will gain confidence in our own scientific questions, collect and analyze data to address them, and learn to communicate our interpretations to a wide array of audiences. We interface with scientists and experts working in the lab and field through a Guest Lecture Series, visits to the world-class research institutions in our backyard, and through our CSG Science Mentors, experts in the field who serve as a source of guidance and insight to CSG students as they embark on their own research projects. Through observation, inquiry, collaboration, and research we encourage students to explore the edge of what we know about the marine environment. We develop our environmental ethic by studying the impact of humans on ocean ecosystems, as well as the important connections between oceans and climate. Through the lens of the ocean environment, we examine the intersection of science, conservation, policy, and society. Students will leave Coastal Adventure with a skill set of interdisciplinary techniques to convey important scientific information and why it matters to their communities and the world.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe and identify the major marine phyla, especially organisms commonly found in Maine’s marine environments with an eye towards the essential ecological question: “Who’s there, and what are they doing?”
  • Explain how physical (abiotic) and ecological (biotic) processes shape marine habitats and influence populations and communities
  • Illustrate the intersection of diversity, change, and adaptation in the context of evolution, and how it operates in marine environment
  • Apply standard ecological metrics to describe and compare diversity in marine communities
  • Apply laboratory techniques and technology to measure abiotic characteristics of marine habitats
  • Use the scientific literature to research a scientific topic
  • Develop research questions, design sampling plans, collect and analyze data, and interpret results
  • Communicate scientific findings to a wide variety of audiences
  • Explain how ocean health and human health are interrelated and think critically about the impact of human activities on ecosystems and natural resources.