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The University of Southampton

SOES6013 Introduction to Biological Oceanography

Module Overview

Introduction to general aspects of biological oceanography from phytoplankton to fish. The module is designed for students with no previous experience of studying biological systems. The module follows the flow of energy from light, via primary producers and then through the food chain in a number of typical oceanic systems - from coastal to open-ocean. Students will learn the importance of microbial processes and their role in the cycling of carbon, energy and thus in the regulation on global climate. Students will also be introduced to the range of methods used to measure and interrogate the biological components of ocean systems. Students will learn via a series of lectures and guided background reading. Students will gain practical experience through the sampling and data analysis of an estuarine marine systems; this data will be used as the basis of a short report describing the biological components of this system.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the biological oceanography of the pelagic ecosystem.
  • Understand the concepts of Primary and secondary production in marine systems and its link to global climate
  • Understand the role of Recycling process and Export in marine systems and its link to global climate
  • Understand and give examples of primary production and food-web structure in Open ocean, shelf and upwelling systems
  • To demonstrate awareness of methods to sample and interrogate the biological components of ocean systems.
  • Be able to sample the biological components of an estuarine system.
  • Be able to analyse and interpret datasets of biological components of an estuarine systems and present this as a report.


Introduction to general ecological principles relating to the ocean and description of the ocean environment. Physical factors influencing primary productivity. Primary production. Breakdown of organic material, and regeneration of nutrients. Oxygen relationships and anoxic conditions. Pelagic secondary production. Food webs. Importance of vertical flux of organics in water column, implications of zooplankton vertical migration and metabolism on biogeochemical cycles. Role of marine microbial processes in biogeochemical cycles. Fisheries and upwelling, the biology of subtropical gyres and the southern ocean and long term ocean time series plus and introduction to modelling in biological oceanography.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: Will provide an introduction to the theory underlying biological processes in the marine environment. Each lecture systematically covers the main concepts and topics by the use of PowerPoint presentations, supported by o materials. The lecturers' own experience in this field is incorporated where possible. Appropriate references to parts of course textbooks and introductory journal references are provided at each lecture. Suggested links are provided during each lecture to useful illustrative web pages. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs

Independent Study57
Total study time77

Resources & Reading list

Miller, C.B (2004). Biological Oceanography. 



Data Analysis


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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