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Interdisciplinary Oceanography
Course Information for Spring 2009

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10:20 AM to 11:10 AM
Room 110 Oceanography and Meteorology Building

Instructor: Robert Stewart
Office & Telephone: 624 O&M, 845-2995

Daily Problem

"Learning is not a spectator sport." It requires you to be an active participant in class discussions. To help you prepare for class, I will post on the Class Schedule a problem to be discussed in class. Before class you must:

  1. Read the pages assigned for each class day.
  2. Write out a few paragraphs describing the problem and an approach that will lead to its solution. Bring two copies of the paper to class. Turn in one copy, keep the other for notes. Or, you may email the answer to me.
    The answer ought to:
    1. Describe the problem.
    2. Break down the solution into a few manageable steps.
    3. Analyze what data or concepts are needed to solve the problem.
    4. State applicable theory. Analyze the assumptions used to derive the theory and determine if theory applies to the problem.
    5. Contrast your approach to other possible approaches to solving the problem.
    6. If you email the assignment, the email must be sent before the start of class, and you must put the answer in the body of the email, not in an attachment.
  3. Be prepared to discuss the problem in class.
  4. Your grade will depend on your participation.
    1. I will give you one point for each daily problem turned in before class, or later in the day at my discretion.
    2. Your class participation grade will be calculated by summing your points, dividing by the maximum number of points, and multiplying by 15%. Thus if you turn in all daily problems you will earn the maximum grade for class participation.
    3. Some test questions will be based on the daily problems, so take good notes when we discuss the issues in class.


I have not found an inexpensive textbook suitable for the course. Fortunately, almost all the material needed for the course is available through the web. I have summarized the material in a web-based textbook, Our Ocean Planet: Oceanography for the 21st Century, and I have put additional links to useful material on the class schedule pages. If you keep a good notebook of web readings and results of class discussions, you will be well prepared for the tests and the final exam.

If you are very concerned that there is no text, you will find much useful material in the text required for OCNG-251 sold in the bookstores.


There will be no homework assignments. Instead, please hand in the daily problem assignment.

Class Project

You will work in teams of four on a class project.

  1. The goal of the project is to research an interesting scientific topic in depth and to share with the class what you learned.
  2. The topic should be about the ocean or process influencing the ocean.
  3. The topic should be relatively narrow so that you can go deeper into the subject that we could in class.
    1. Examples are: pollution in Galveston Bay or offshore of Corpus Christi; effect of the inter coastal waterway on the Texas coastal ecosystem; storm damage to the Texas by hurricane Ike in 2008, etc.
    2. Please avoid broad topics such as Texas coastal pollution. The topics are to be related to the course content.
  4. Early in the semester, I will help you select a project, and I will require regular updates on the progress.
  5. On one of the last four days of class your team will make a ten-minute presentation with overheads, slides, or Power Point materials.
  6. The presentation will include:
    1. Overview of the topic and the controversy around the topic,
    2. Evidence for different sides of the controversy,
    3. Analysis of the evidence,
    4. Conclusion, what you have learned.
  7. Although you will work as a team, each team member must be able to answer questions about the work.
  8. Paper: your presentation will be supported by a 5-10 page paper:
    1. The paper will provide support for the material you present to the class.
    2. It will include references that you consulted in writing the report,
    3. It will be written and signed by all members of the group.
    1. Please consult the Texas A&M University Department of Chemistry's web page on plagiarism that defines what it is and gives examples and the Texas A&M University Library's web tutorial on plagiarism.
    2. So much material is available on the web you may be tempted to use it without attribution in your class report.
    3. If you use material without attribution, you will receive a grade of 0 for the report.
    4. SO, please provide references to all material you use. Please use quotation marks around any material taken directly from any source. If you get into the habit now of giving credit where credit is due, you may save your future career. Raytheon's board punished CEO William Swanson for plagiarism by freezing his salary at its 2005 level of $1.1 million and cutting his restricted stock grant by 20 percent according to #24 of the Dumbest Moments in Business.
  10. Your project will be graded on:
    1. Originality: Does the material you presented go beyond what we discussed in class?
    2. Evidence: Have you presented evidence to support your topic?
    3. Clarity of your argument: Is your conclusion logically based on your evidence?
    4. Ability to answer questions about your presentation.
    5. Accuracy of the material you present.
    6. Quality of presentation. Did you do more than read from your slide or notes.


Tests will assess your ability to think critically about issues discussed in class. Many test questions will come from the daily problems discussed in class.

  1. I will give two tests and a optional final exam.
  2. The tests and final exam will be open book.
    1. You may consult books, notes, and homework during the tests or exam.
    2. Test questions will be based on material discussed in class, and answers to daily problems.
  3. The optional final exam is cumulative, covering material from the course, daily problems, and the class projects.
  4. If you do very poorly on any test question, you may redo the question to improve your score for that question. Any question scored below 70% can be redone to receive a 70% score, up to a total score of 70% for the test.
  5. Schedule:
    1. Test 1: February 25, 2009
    2. Test 2: April 6, 2009
    3. Make-up test: 29 April 2009 for anyone who missed an earlier test.
    4. Optional final Examination: 12 May 2009: 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM


  1. Each Test is 25%
  2. Final exam is 25%
  3. Class project presentation and paper is 10%
  4. Class participation, especially the daily problem, is 15%.
  5. The tests, final exam, class participation, and class project will be will be worth 25% + 25% + 25% + 15% + 10% = 100% of your grade if you take the final, or 4/3 (25% + 25% + 15% + 10%) = 100% if you elect to skip the final.

A = 90 - 100
B = 80 - 89
C = 70 - 79
D = 60 - 69
F = < 59

If necessary, test grades will be curved. Additional curving of grades at the semester's end will be at the discretion of the professor.


Texas A&M does not discriminate on the basis of an individual's disability and complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its admissions, accessibility, treatment, and employment practices. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Department of Student Life, Services for Students with Disabilities in Room B118 of Cain Hall. The phone number is 845-1637.

Revised on: 20 January, 2009

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