Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Sampling the Ocean
Code ENVS220
Coordinator Professor C Mahaffey
Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2023-24 Level 5 FHEQ Second Semester 15


To provide students with

An understanding of the practical methods used to measure and analyse physical and biogeochemical quantities in the ocean, in both the context of ocean research and in the commercial world.

This includes:
Techniques for navigation and survey planning;
Measurement of temperature, salinity, chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen using the "CTD";
Measurement of currents;
Laboratory analyses for chlorophyll, oxygen and nutrients;
Microscope analyses for plankton identification;
Techniques for instrument calibration.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Students will understand how to use charts and design surveys; how measurements of temperature, salinity and density are made with a CTD; different methods for the measurement of currents; how to analyse water samples for chlorophyll, nutrients and dissolved oxygen.

(LO2) Students will be able to assess data quality and use suitable analysis techniques including manipulation of CTD and current data; calculation of water column properties from discrete sampling; calibration of instrumentation using discrete samples.

(LO3) Students will be able to present data graphically to a high standard, appreciating the need for legibility, labelling, legends and figure captions.

(LO4) At the end of the module a student should be able to evaluate the quality and significance of oceanographic data, and understand how data is used in both commercial and research environments.

(LO5) Students will acquire appreciation of safe working practices in the laboratory.

(S1) Problem solving skills

(S2) Numeracy

(S3) Communication skills

(S4) IT skills



Weeks 1 to 3, 1 x 1h workshop per week supported by 3 hours of video and online material (viewed before each week’s workshop) covering navigation, chartwork, measurements of ocean currents and the CTD.

Week 4: 1 x 2 hour computer lab: sensor calibration and error estimates (Matlab and Excel) and set the first assignment.

Week 5 – no activities = work on 1st assessment; there will be a drop-in (online) session for students to ask questions about the assignment.

Week 6 – Nutrients and oxygen: e-lecture plus 3 hour lab class in CTL

Week 7 – Chlorophyll: e-lecture plus 3 hour lab class in CTL.

Week 8 – Plankton: e-lecture plus 3-hour lab class in CTL.

Week 9 – Fieldwork week = Monday, Tuesday Wednesday.
Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday Students manage their time so that they can complete 3 practicals (about 3 hours each) over the =2 days:
i. Oxygen: can you get precision to < 1 %
ii. Chloro phyll: filter large volumes of water for chlorophyll – how much do you need
iii. Plankton: identify 10 things under the microscope.
Water for the samples will be collected by Richie from the docks.

Students would then use information from field week alongside later computer-based activities to complete the 2nd assessment.

Week 10 – Computer lab – 2 hours, quality control of nutrient data and plotting.

Week 11 – Computer lab – 2 hours, analysing current meter data (removing tidal variability using Matlab and Excel – and a demonstration of why Matlab is so much better!)

Note: some re-arranging will be required depending on which week is used as field week.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Teaching Method 1 – Lecture/workshop
Online videos and papers will provide supporting material, including information on practical equipment/instrumentation that will be used in ENVS349. Lectures/workshops provide more active experience in relevant calculations and desk-based practical skills (e.g. interpreting information on navigational charts, calculations based on data from instruments).

Teaching Method 2 - Computer practicals.
Description: computer-based practical sessions focused on sensor calibration, data quality, time series analysis of currents, biogeochemical and physical data interpretation.

Teaching Method 3 - CTL Laboratory practicals.
Description: Laboratory analysis of seawater samples in the CTL.
This laboratory work develops the hands-on experience of sample analyses using standard methods for both research and commercial oceanography. A critical approach to the assessment of data quality will be developed.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 3



Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 117


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Sensor calibration report. There is a resit opportunity. Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is an anonymous assessment. Assessment Schedule: first half of semester 2.    50       
Data analysis of data acquired in the laboratory. There is a resit opportunity. Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is an anonymous assessment. Assessment Schedule (When): to    50       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.