OLC Level 3 Diploma in Marine Biology
Marine Biology is basically the study of the organisms found in the sea and this course aims to give a comprehensive grounding in the fascinating subject of life in the sea. Throughout the 10 fully illustrated modules, the learner will experience and learn about the many aspects of oceanography and marine biology such as how oceans are born and die and how life began and evolved in the sea over the past 4 million years. The ocean is studied as an ecological habitat and as an amazing evolutionary adaptations of aquatic animals to the harsh marine environment. The ocean habitats from the poles to the equator and from the sunlit surface of the sea to the dark depths of the deep ocean are explored. Finally the human impact and influence on the marine ecosystem is discussed.
Module 1 - Ocean formation
The Oceans cover over 70% of the world’s surface and contains an array of rich life, adapting to its range of climate and weather systems. The ocean has a range of habitats, and it is believed there is still much to discover about its content. This module sets the scene by looking at how the oceans are created and destroyed by sea floor spreading and plate tectonics. Continental drift and the configuration of the oceans and continents through geological history is discussed with a speculative look into the possible future configurations should the continents continue to move as predicted. The major oceans of the present day with their geological features are studied, and the path of an ocean as it progresses from birth to death is followed.
Module 2 - The Ocean as a Habitat
The oceans are constantly changing in terms of the way they form and are structured, and also in the way their internal environment are being affected by external factors. Some basic oceanography and the structure of the physical ocean from the continental shelf to the abyssal plain and their descent into the deep ocean trenches are studied. There are two distinct environments, the actual sea floor and the surrounding sea waters. The chemistry of seawater and how it gets its physical properties as well as the physics of light and sound propagation in the ocean is explored. The dynamics of tides and major currents and the large scale movements of seawater in the ocean basins is ascertained. How waves are formed, and how temperature, density and salinity work together in the marine environment is discovered.
Module 3 - Biological evolution in the oceans
Fossils have been found that are about 3.8 billion years old, not that much younger than when Earth and the Solar Systems were thought to form about 4 billion years ago. Until 1961 it was thought that life formed on Earth by arriving as particles from other planets, until a ferocious debate arose when scientists were able to re-create simple molecular life forms in the laboratory from a rich soup of chemicals that are readily found in the seas today. In module three, how life evolved in the ocean and the fascinating hydrothermal vents which were discovered in the 1970s are studied. The peculiar animals that live in these habitats and how they are able to live in such extreme environments are explored. The evolution of animals in the ocean from the tiniest one-celled animal to the largest marine mammals to what continues to be discover today is discussed. The mass extinctions and radiations that have punctuated the geological history of life on Earth are shown.
Module 4 - Food webs in the sea
As on land, life in the sea is maintained by a primary food producer, the phytoplankton, which is able to harness energy to make its own food. The secret in the unseen world of the microscopic marine phytoplankton and zooplankton is discovered and the primary productivity and the trophic food webs which support all life in the sea are discussed. The incredible migration patterns of tiny zooplankton and how other marine animals exploit them is explored. How some of the smallest animals in the sea support some of the largest such as the great whales is discussed. Finally, the global distribution patterns of the tiniest organisms in the sea are looked at since they impact upon and influence the survival of all the organisms in the food chains and food web in which they form the base, yet the most crucial level.
Module 5 - Adaptations to life in the sea
In this module, how diverse life adapts to the harsh marine environment by forming a cyclic relationship is explored. The way animals from the smallest single-celled organisms to fish and the largest whale are able to live in the ocean, whilst others moved to the land is discussed. Biological systems such as osmoregulation, thermoregulation, locomotion, respiration, reproduction, sensory systems, diet and foraging strategies are investigated. The variety of the life in the oceans (and the land), its survival, how it is named and its evolutionary path is discovered. As a case study, the extraordinary evolutionary adaptation of the whales and dolphins as they evolved from being land animals, 50 million years ago to the fully adapted marine creatures seen today is studied.
Module 6 - Tropical environments
The tropical seas are generally considered to be much less productive, so the organisms found here are much more rigorous in the amount of primary productivity, between 30-250 times that of the open oceans. The specific conditions of the tropical oceans are explored. The beautiful coral reefs and mangrove swamps of the tropics are studied in terms of coral anatomy, growth, adaptation and their global distribution and ecology. The geological aspects of coral reef formation and how the simple coral animals evolved throughout their geological history is explored. The delicate symbiotic relationship between the tiny reef organisms and their coral hosts is assessed, and the marvellous array of coral reef fishes and their ecology is discovered and explored.
Module 7 - Polar environments
The physical environment of the polar regions appear similar, and yet there are fundamental geological differences in the Arctic and Antarctic. The Arctic is a sea surrounded by land, and the Antarctic is a continent surrounded by sea, so they contain very different organisms. The ecology of polar environments and the different species found in the Arctic and Antarctic is studied, along with the extraordinary evolutionary adaptations of life in such extreme environments. Animals such as fish with antifreeze in their blood form specific case studies and the way warm blooded animals have adapted and are able to survive in such extreme cold, will be studied.
Module 8 - The intertidal
The intertidal area or the littoral zone is the small area in the ocean affected by the rise and fall of the tides. The physical environment such as how long the waters are exposed to air, their depth and height, and the animals of rocky shores, sandy beaches and muddy estuaries affected by these changes are observed. They are very different environments affected by the tides, yet are all at the mercy of the daily and seasonal tides. Thus, the animals have amazing adaptation such as desiccating intertidal environments and physical and biological factors for zonation of animals and plants on the shoreline. As a case study, the biology of a rock pool and the array of fascinating animals that are found there are investigated.
Module 9 - Beneath the tides
It is said that scientists know more about what is found on the moon than in the deepest waters of the ocean. The abyssal areas of the deep ocean reveal new organisms in every deep scientific exploratory sea dive. The deep waters are dark, have high pressure, are cold, often have extreme conditions and appear void of life, yet show a remarkable diversity and richness of organisms, adapted for this environment. The energy transfer, food web and the surprisingly abundant animals of the deep sea are studied. The strange looking deep-sea fishes and invertebrates that are adapted to such incredible pressures exerted by the water column in this harsh environment and the animals, which create their own light: bioluminescence is investigated. The study of the ecology of a kelp forests in Alaska with its vitally important keystone species provides an in-depth study in this area of the oceans.
Module 10 - The human impact on the sea
Humans have done enormous damage to the oceans with over-fishing, oils spills and even testing Nuclear weapons upon our precious waters. The oceans have been discovered to have limited food, especially in line with the exponential rise in world population. It cannot continue to meet demands in the way we are exploiting it today. This final module looks at fisheries, the impacts of over-fishing and the main food species obtained from the sea. The ocean pollution such as toxic pollutants, sewage and marine debris which are degrading the ocean are discussed, and how the animals of the sea are coping with it all. The history and damage of oil spills and their aftermath, and whether the well-intended clean-up operations do any good are discussed. The impact on global warming and its implications for life in the sea is analysed by looking at the geological history of climate change over millions of years and by comparing it with the predictions of some of the climate models for the recent future.
- Details of course accreditation by CIE Global.
- 2 assessments, 1 at the half way point and 1 at end.
- The grade is either pass or fail. Based on the student meeting the criteria and decided by the tutor.
- Recommended study hours 120 per unit.
The criteria for assessment are:
- Theoretical Knowledge/Understanding
- Practical Implications
- Integration of Theory and Practice