Marine Ecology at COSMOS
In this course students learn about a diverse group of marine organisms (including algae, invertebrates, and fish) and their interactions with their biological and physical environments. Students learn about the types of habitats found in the Monterey Bay area, including the open-ocean, the nearshore coastal waters, bays and estuaries, and the intertidal region. We discuss the early life history stages of marine organisms as they develop from eggs and larvae to the juvenile stages, and discuss how coastal oceanography affects what happens as these early stages float among the plankton. We then explore what happens to marine organisms once they have settled into their adult habitats, and whether or not biological (such as competition or predation) or physical factors (such as temperature or waves) are more important in influencing the communities or marine organisms. Finally, we focus on the life history characteristics of commercially important fish species, the role of marine reserves, and how understanding their biology is critical to sustainable fisheries management. To explore these topics, we go on various field trips to sites throughout the Monterey Bay area (Greyhound Rock, Natural Bridges, Scott Creek) and to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Students design their own rapid biological experiment in the rocky intertidal habitat and formally present the results of their research to the group.
Field research is fun and exciting, although quite challenging, so students must be prepared to get wet, dirty, and to work hard, while enjoying themselves in nature.