Essentials of Oceanography

Lesson 1 Introduction


Did you complete the Course Orientation?

Before you begin this course, make sure you have completed the Course Orientation.

Stop Sign under water with coral reef and fish swiming
Credit: Mark Wherley, Penn State

About Lesson 1

In this lesson, you will begin a trek toward understanding the significance of water on Earth and its importance to a host of unique features on your home planet. You will also apply the scientific method along the way, think about how hypotheses are best evaluated, and get a chance to hone your skills of critical reading. Reading scientific articles and papers in a critical way is an invaluable skill. You will be doing this with your own students' work as well as with the published literature. Not everything you read, even in the scientific literature, is correct, or even well-reasoned. In Earth science, well-reasoned speculation is acceptable, as long as it is identified as such. Thus, scientific articles should present one or more clear, identifiable hypotheses and should evaluate those hypotheses using data collected for that purpose, presented in the paper along with other supporting information.

With the proliferation of "self publishing" on the Web, one can find all sorts of "bad science." How do we promote the "critical thinking and reading" skill to our students to allow them to sort the wheat from the chaff? Practice, of course! We will ask you to read selected articles, discuss them with the class, and provide data plots that support your views and points. We will also ask you to translate that science-speak into a product that is interesting and accessible to the lay person. Let's dive in!

What will we learn in Lesson 1?

By the end of Lesson 1, you should be able to:

  • Explain the Scientific Method and the concept of Multiple Working Hypotheses
  • More critically read and evaluate scientific papers
  • Communicate complex scientific arguments to nonscientists
  • Plot and analyze data
  • Explain current thinking about the origin of water on Earth
  • Explain the Goldilocks principle of life on Earth
  • Explain the importance of water oceans to the evolution and continuity of life on Earth

What is due for Lesson 1?

The chart below provides an overview of the requirements for Lesson 1. For assignment details, refer to the lesson page noted.

Lesson 1 Assignments
Activity 1: Quantification and Plot Analysis (1)

Activity 1 is due May 28
page 4 Yes - Your discussion board participation counts toward your overall class participation grade
Activity 2: The "Habitable Zone" Discussion Experience page 5 Yes - Your discussion board participation counts toward your overall class participation grade
Activity 3: Critically Reading Scientific Literature and the Scientific Method page 6 Yes - Submitted to "Lesson 1, Activity 3" in Canvas Assignments


If you have general questions, please post them to our Questions discussion forum, which is linked under the Discussions link in Canvas.

If you have something time sensitive and/or personal please send email to Chris at