310 Marine Geology and Geochemistry

This is the first in a three-quarter series of 300 level interdisciplinary core courses for Oceanography majors. 

Marine geological processes operate over approximately three-quarters of Earth’s surface today, and an even larger fraction of Earth’s surface in the past. Some of these processes act on geologic timescales leading to the development of mountain belts and mid-ocean ridges, changing Earth’s climate, and creating and destroying ocean basins. Other processes act more quickly, such as those that cause earthquakes and tsunamis, and potentially affect Earth’s climate over timescales as short as centuries to millennia. In both cases, these processes are highly relevant to human populations.

This course provides a synthesis of processes that form ocean basins and fill them with sediment, including:

  • Plate tectonics and the creation, evolution, and subduction of the ocean crust;
  • The accumulation of terrestrial, biogenic, and authigenic sediments;
  • The role of marine geological processes in the evolution of seawater composition and in sustaining seafloor and subseafloor biological communities; and
  • The relationship between geological processes and climate.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand how mantle dynamics and plate tectonics lead to the formation of new ocean crust.
  2. Understand how the ocean crust evolves during its transit from the mid-ocean ridge to subduction zones at continental margins, and how physical and chemical processes within the crust impact seawater chemistry and sustain the deep biosphere.
  3. Be conversant with the primary types of sediments filling the ocean basins, and how diagenetic processes alter these sediments.
  4. Be familiar with how marine sediments are used to study paleoceanography and paleoclimate.
  5. Be conversant with the physical and chemical processes that operate in subduction zones and how they contribute to earthquake generation and arc volcanism.
  6. Understand the feedbacks between tectonic processes, weathering, and climate over geologic timescales.
  7. Improve critical thinking skills through a combination of reading recent scientific journal articles and problem solving in weekly lab sections.