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Marine Biology

Purpose of Course  showclose

Marine Biology is the study of ocean life.  As you might expect, life in salt water is vastly different from life in a terrestrial or freshwater environment due to factors like salinity, water circulation, and atmospheric pressure.  How, for example, can organisms living in salt water avoid dehydration?  How do organisms living in the depths of the ocean handle the immense pressure?  How do the environmental factors in marine communities affect biodiversity?  How do some animals manage to alternate between the demands of terrestrial life and the demands of marine life?  In this course, you will learn the answers to these questions and more.  This course will touch on a number of different subfields of biological study (including biochemistry, physiology, zoology, botany, and ecology) within the context of the ocean environment.

You will start by learning about the ocean itself and its physical properties, as these properties influence the abundance, distribution, diversity, physiology, and behavior of marine organisms.  You will also learn about the specific environmental challenges facing marine life as well as the physiological and behavioral adaptations that have resulted from these challenges.  You will then learn about the life cycles of marine organisms—what they eat and how they reproduce—before examining in some depth a number of the most common taxa of marine species.  Once you have a sense of the biodiversity of oceanic life, you will be able to examine the interrelationships between species in different marine communities.  The course will conclude with a look at current research in marine biology.

This course will prepare you for further study within the field of Marine Biology, but students planning to pursue other subfields will also find this course of use in terms of learning how alternative environments affect life.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to Biology 308.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Olivia V. Ambrogio

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials.  The major resources used in this course follow:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  Although certain web media and readings are listed as “optional,” I urge you to explore them as well, as they were included in order to give you the fullest picture of the subject of marine biology and the ways in which accurate scientific information can be used to delight while educating.  You will also need to complete:


  • Unit 2 Quiz

  • Subunit 4.7 Quiz

  • Subunit 4.8 Quiz

  • Unit 4 Quiz

  • Subunit 5.2.2 Quiz

  • Subunit 5.2.3 Quiz

  • Subunit 5.2.4 Quiz

  • Subunit 5.2.5 Quiz

  • Subunit 5.2.7 Quiz

  • Subunit 6.1.5 Quiz

  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the resources in each unit and the quizzes listed above.

 In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 60 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 5 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 1 hour) on Monday night; subunit 1.3 (a total of 1.5 hours) on Tuesday night; subunit 1.4 (a total of 1.5 hours) on Wednesday; subunit 1.5 (a total of 1 hour) on Thursday; etc.

Tips/Suggestions: The course has a scaffold structure so that each unit’s information builds on another’s, so that words like “euphotic zone” will have already been familiar to you from Unit 1 when you encounter them again in Unit 5, and so that you will have a sense of what kinds of animals are present at what point in a marine food web before you learn about the details of a particular phylum or species.  Take ample notes on terms and concepts and to refer back to earlier resources if you encounter a term or concept that feels familiar but that you cannot quite remember.  Marine biology is a lot of fun, but it encompasses a lot of information.



Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast ocean and terrestrial environments, and describe the properties of the marine environment that are associated with specific marine adaptations.
  • List the members of marine food webs and, based on descriptions of specific species, identify their roles within food webs and the effects of changes in their abundance on overall food-web dynamics.
  • Describe the difference between various life-history types (e.g. gonochoristic species vs. sex changers vs. simultaneous hermaphrodites; complex vs. simple life history), and identify the physiological and ecological conditions under which certain life-history traits are considered to be advantageous over others.
  • List and identify phyla/species of marine organisms, and describe their taxonomic relationships and the fundamental characteristics of their groups.
  • Distinguish between different marine zones in terms of their biotic and abiotic characteristics and the factors that affect their communities.
  • Design a marine-protected area based on the organisms or region in need of protection.
  • Explain the major types, causes, and effects of marine threats such as pollution, overfishing, global warming and ocean acidification, and invasive species, as well as describe the consequences of these threats for marine communities and organisms.
  • Analyze current research in marine biology, evaluating the interpretation and results of these experiments.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (i.e., Adobe Reader or Flash Player).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed the following prerequisite courses and labs in “The Core Program” of the Biology discipline: BIO101A: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology; BIO101 LabBIO102: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology; and BIO102 Lab.

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