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The University of Southampton

SOES6015 Introduction to Chemical Oceanography

Module Overview

The module is designed for graduates in any science discipline embarking on postgraduate studies in Ocean and Earth Science.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

1. To introduce the basic concepts used in chemical oceanography. 2. To provide a basic knowledge of chemical processes in the ocean. 3. To provide a frame work to undertake more advanced courses within OES. 4. To introduce some of the techniques and practical skills needed when undertaking oceanographic chemical sampling and analyses.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Able to convert between the different units used in chemical oceanography.
  • Able to describe the distribution of the major sediment types in the ocean basins and the chemical controls that result in the observed distributions.
  • Aware of the behaviour and importance of trace metals dissolved in seawater.
  • Aware of some of the different chemical tracers used in oceanography.
  • Able to interpret an estuarine nutrient data set.
  • Ability to access chemical oceanography literature
  • Data handling and interpretation skills
  • Chemical oceanographic sampling techniques
  • Chemical laboratory techniques and safety
  • Familiar with the hydrological cycle and erosion processes.
  • Aware of the differences between river water and seawater and the reasons for the differences.
  • Able to discuss the impact of mid ocean ridge hydrothermal activity on ocean chemistry.
  • Familiar with conservative and non conservative elements and their behaviour in the oceans using examples including nutrients, major and minor element, and trace metals.
  • Aware of the biogeochemical cycles of the major nutrients within the oceans.
  • Able to construct two box models.
  • Aware of the behaviour of elements within estuaries.
  • Familiar with the behaviour of dissolved gases in the ocean and their impact on ocean anoxia and carbonate chemistry.


The format of the module is lecture based. Calculations and simple exercises will be set throughout the course to allow students to employ the skills learnt in a practical sense that is relevant to their discipline. Chemical oceanography covers many facets of marine environmental science and a multitude of different spatial and temporal scales. Topics covered in this module span from evolution of the ocean to controls on chemical speciation in sea water and molecular diffusion processes. Chemical processes are essential in biological systems, they control the geology of the planet and they are key tracers utilised in understanding the physics of the ocean.

Special Features

Restricted to MSc/MRes students within Ocean and Earth Science

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: Will provide an introduction to the theory underlying chemical processes in the marine environment. Each lecture systematically covers the main concepts and topics by the use of PowerPoint presentations, supported by illustrated handout 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. Problem Sheets: Numerical problems and answers are available each week to allow individual study to reinforce the concepts taught in the lectures. Online test: A test with multiple choice and single word answer questions will be available on to give you feedback on your knowledge and understanding of the first half of the course. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study55
Total study time75


Assessment Strategy

Theory Paper (80%): A 90-minute written examination, two questions to be answered, one from each section, will test the understanding of the theoretical part of the course through essay type questions and also numerical problems. Tests Learning Outcomes 1-12 Short Practical Write Up (20%): A short data analysis exercise based on the practical work carried out during the boat work week. Tests Learning Outcomes 1, 3, 8,13, 16 and 17


MethodPercentage contribution
Practical write-ups 20%
Theory examination  (1.5 hours) 80%


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


There are no additional costs associated with this module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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