The University of Southampton


Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To provide an introduction to basic concepts in ocean biogeochemistry and chemical oceanography. • To demonstrate how these concepts are applied in specific research areas.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Confident in applying the basic concepts of chemical oceanography to new areas.
  • Aware of how chemical, biological, physical and geological processes are linked in the ocean.
  • Able to specialise in this subject or apply the general skills within your chosen degree pathway.
  • Numeracy, statistics and computer literacy
  • Problem-solving skills


A chemical perspective will be taken, as chemical oceanography is central to the study of the oceans. Dissolved chemicals provide the building blocks for life, chemicals are used as tracers of physical processes and chemicals laid down in seafloor deposits record changes to the oceans through time. We need to understand how the oceans have developed over the history of the Earth and e.g., why the sea is salty to be able to make informed decisions on how to use our ocean resources and how the system will change in the future. This module provides an introduction to ocean biogeochemistry and chemical oceanography for all science undergraduates and is particularly relevant to oceanography and geology students. The module is delivered through lectures and practical classes. Our approach is to provide exciting examples of chemistry in real marine environments. After providing an overview of important features of biogeochemical cycles, the course considers the specific examples of the carbon cycle, macronutrient cycles, and iron in the ocean. Within each of these general topics important chemical concepts that provide a mechanistic understanding of the behaviour of elements in the ocean, such as redox, solubility, kinetics and equilibria, will be introduced. The practical sessions provide direct skills training and allow us to assess student learning and provide direct feedback on progress. You will work through structured worksheets with assistance from demonstrators and staff. We start by revising basic chemical concepts that are used at GCSE and A level and build up to applying these concepts to real examples in chemical oceanography. We build directly on the skills learnt in SOES 1008. Practical sessions cover areas such as the kinetics of iron oxidation in seawater, controls on the distributions of nutrients and dissolved oxygen in the oceans and an introduction to simple box models. One of the practical sessions is assessed and attendance is mandatory. Specific help will be given to students with only a very basic background in chemistry in the practical sessions. This course is taken by all Oceanography students and Geology students wishing to focus on palaeoceanography, geochemistry or Earth system science.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: will provide an overview of important features of biogeochemical cycles and consider specific examples of carbon cycle, macronutrient cycles, and iron in the ocean. Practical classes: will involve the student in using the concepts introduced in lectures. Examples will be worked through with help from demonstrators. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study96
Practical classes and workshops30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

James, R., Oceanography Course Team (2005). Marine Biogeochemical Cycles. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Practical assessment 40%
Theory examination 60%
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