Over the past few years I have come to the conclusion that the oceanography taught in the classroom differs greatly from the oceanography done by my colleagues. Very few oceanographers study whales and dolphins. Many study micro, nano, and pico plankton. Few go to sea. Many use data collected by satellites, drifters, and subsea observatories. Few scuba dive. Many are skilled users of computers. SimEarth is far more relevant than the Magic School Bus.
I will introduce to the new worlds of oceanography, earth-system science, and the exciting problems now being worked on by thousands of oceanographers around the world.
It is clear that Earth's climate system has proven itself to be an angry beast. When nudged, it is capable of a violent response. -Broecker (2003)
Consider the following illustration of the hydrological cycle. I picked this illustration only because it was handy. It is typical of dozens of others in textbooks.
Why is it wrong? Because it shows an upper-mid-latitude area. Evaporation is mostly in the tropics, not mid latitudes. It shows mostly land, but evaporation is mostly from the seas, the seas cover much more of earth than the land. So this simple picture misleads students. It fails to show the correct relationships among the coupled earth systems.
The picture would be more accurate if it showed a tropical island, such as Hawaii, with the land area smaller and the ocean area larger.
Collectively the bacteria of the sea probably consume more oxygen than all other organisms combined, thereby influencing the distribution of oxygen in the sea. -ZoBell (1944).
The pelagic food web is microbe-centric...The diatom-copepod-fish food web is a relatively minor component. -Barber & Hilting (2000).
The microbial food web...has been a major theme of biological oceanography over the past two decades - Ducklow (2000).
Do we teach about this marine food web?
[Modeling] has become a mainstream activity; it permeates so much of our work that graduate students in the discipline assume it is integral to biological oceanography. -Barber & Hilting (2000).
Today's biological oceanography graduate student is more likely to have a model than a microscope -Barber & Hilting (2000).
High-speed computers led to an explosion in the 1950s in every branch of physical oceanography -Munk (2000).
"Nowadays, at the forefront of oceanographic research, manned submersibles have probably just passed their peak of paradigm reign, like railroads many decades ago
"Now we can cut the ultimate tether–the one that binds our questioning intellect to vulnerable human flesh. Through telepresence, a mind detaches itself from the body's restrictions and enters the abyss with ease, and with lightening-quick fiber optic nerves. ...
"Our minds can now go it alone, leaving the body behind." -Ballard (2000)
Again I picked Thurman and Barton only because it was handy. It is similar to many other widely used textbooks.
Yes. We are turning out tens of thousands of students who want to be marine biologists and study whales. Yet we cannot find enough students who want to study ocean sciences.
Ballard, R. D. (2000). The Eternal Darkness: A Personal History of Deep-Sea Exploration, Princeton University Press.
Barber, R. T. and A. K. Hilting (2000). In: 50 Years of Ocean Discovery. Washington DC: National Academy Press: 11–21.
Broecker, W. S. (2003). "Does the trigger for abrupt climate change reside in the ocean or in the atmosphere." Science 300(5625): 1519–1522.
Ducklow, H. (2000). In: Microbial Ecology of the Oceans. John Wiley: 85–120.
Munk, W. (2000). In: 50 Years of Ocean Discovery. Washington DC: National Academy Press: 44–50.
ZoBell, C. E. and H. C. Upham (1944). Bull. Scripps Inst. Ocean. 5(2): 239–292.
Revised on: 2 August, 2004
Revised on: 26 January, 2005