SMS 204: Integrative marine sciences, physics and chemistry

number of credits: 2.

 Team taught by:

Emmanuel Boss


Mary Jane Perry


each teaching a separate module.

Syllabus and class activities for physics module

Links of material with relevance the physics module


This course focuses on using physical principles, concepts and approaches to explain observed phenomena in aquatic sciences.  The course emphasizes “hands-on” activities; half the time in the class will be devoted to laboratory sessions. Due to the emphasis on laboratory work the lab portion of this class is limited to 20 students.  The course is intended for 2nd/3rd year students in SMS and has no prerequisites.  The class will meet for two hours a week; one in lecture/discussion, the other in lab. Course material will be posted on a dedicated web site.


Grading in the class will be based on participation (20%), weekly assignments (50%) a mid-term exam (15%) and a final exam (15%).  Extra credit: students electing to write a term paper (5 pages maximum), whose topic they discussed with one of the instructors, could replace the exam grades with that of the term paper. There will be no make-up/retake/rescheduled exams. Late assignment will suffer an automatic 10% decrease in grade.


Two-seven week modules, one on Physics (taught by Dr. Boss) and one on Chemistry (taught by Dr. Perry); the integrated lecture/laboratory class will meet for two hours once a week.  On the average time will be apportioned as one hour of lecture (including PowerPoint lecuture presentations, class discussions, demonstrations, etc.) and one hour in the laboratory (hands-on experiments, analytical measurement, and computer-based data analysis).

Physics (first seven weeks of semester):
Mechanics and physics of fluid and its application to aquatic organisms and their environment.

Chemistry (second seven weeks of semester):

The focus of this module is on water quality issues, with the underlying question: “how do we assess the water quality of coastal waters in light of increased nutrient loadings, ocean observing programs, climate change, etc.?”  Class time will include lecture and laboratory; the allocation of time will vary with the activity on any given class day.

Concepts to be covered:

  1. Units, dimensional analysis.
  2. Conservation principles and their application to aquatic systems.
  3. Buoyancy, pressure, and Archimedes principle.
  4. Mixing and stirring.
  5. Turbulent vs. laminar flow. Reybolds number. Drag.
  6. Waves (acoustics, optics, water waves).
  1. Swimming in low and high Reynolds number.

  2. What do we mean by “water quality” with regard to coastal marine ecosystems?

  3. What is the role of water quality in coastal marine ecosystems?

  4. What are the appropriate variables for assessing water quality (e.g., chlorophyll, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, water clarity or turbidity)?

  5. How do measure those variables? Beer’s Law and exponential functions.

  6. How do we provide assurance that the measurements were correctly made? standard curve, statistical analysis, error bars.


  1. Critical thinking.
  2. Laboratory safety practices.
  3. Basic scalar statistics, parametric and non-parametric (mean, median, standard deviation, percentile), and standard curve.
  4. Critical concepts such as accuracy, precision, and uncertainties.
  5. Analysis of data collected in the lab on Excel or similar program.
  6. Water sampling methods.
  7. Analytical chemistry techniques and principles of instrument measurement, as applied to measuring a variable relevant to marine water quality.
  8. Presentation and communication of data by graphs and tables, written summary, and Powerpoint talk.