The Ocean Project : a design lab
Jon Isherwood, Elizabeth Sherman
Mon., Thurs., 8:10-10:00 a.m.
The problem:
A majority of ocean ecosystems are vulnerable to various environmental assaults and are in real
jeopardy. It is important to assess the consequences of our continued perturbation of the ocean:
losses of habitat and species have already had profound biological and economic consequences.
But perhaps one of the greatest losses would be in the sheer beauty of our planet.  The grandeur
of the ocean enriches us through color, texture and form and that very grandeur is severely
The lab:
Art and science both depend on close observations, and they attempt to reveal what is usually
invisible or unknown.  This lab requires inquiry, problem solving, and hypothesis testing.  
Students will study various aspects of marine biology in order to articulate a particular problem
associated with human interactions with the sea. We will use visual methods to develop a deeper
understanding of the marine forms studied in the lab, and we will investigate the way in which our
sense of beauty is rooted in natural structures.
The action:
Students will generate questions that can be addressed in schools, labs, aquaria, or other
organizations which will add to ongoing research that can be applied to a sea-related problem.  
The related Field Work Term is recommended but not required as an appropriate venue to
continue work on the problems articulated during the lab.  

Students are expected to come to class prepared, so that they can participate in discussions and activities. Attendance is required. There is no particular number of classes that you are permitted to miss. If we feel that your commitment to the work is insufficient, you will be asked to leave. Do not be late for class as it disrupts all of us.

Students will write essays, responses to readings, and proposals.  Much of the reading (and useful websites) can be downloaded here:
Students will also maintain a sketchbook/journal that includes their drawings, insights, etc.  

Late assignments will not be accepted. All of the assigned work must be completed in order to pass this course. If you must miss a class it is your responsibility to get the assignment and come to the next class prepared.  Please do not email us or leave phone messages for trivial matters (e.g. is it ok for me to be late...can you put the assignment in my box...etc.). Please check our office hours (posted outside Jon’s office, VAPA B106, and Betsy’s office, Dickinson 108) or make an appointment with us at the end of class.  

Students will generate a detailed project that will be presented to the community at the end of term.  The project will integrate both esthetic and scientific insights into ocean issues.  We will discuss the project more fully through the term.


First assignment
Assignment due in class Sept. 29
Visit by Dr. Daniel R. Brumbaugh
             Bahamas Biocomplexity Project
             Are reef fish populations open or closed?
             Trophic cascades-reef fish

Dr. Brumbaugh will participate in our Oct. 9 class and will be giving a lecture (ATTENDANCE REQUIRED) that evening, Oct. 9,  at 7:30 pm in Barn 100.

Assignment due in class Oct. 16: to help you delineate your project:
    Download this chart that has a list of possible topics derived from what you all discussed on Monday.  It also has columns for different ways of viewing a problem and how it relates to: Climate change, Changes in biodiversity, Other forms of pollution (i.e., not CO2 and climate change), Legal/ethical issues, and Economic issues.  As you consider the topics you might wish to be at the center of your project, think about how they relate to the various ways of looking at a problem.  So, for example, if you are interested in the benefits/risks of adding iron to the ocean to increase phytoplankton production, think about how that topic relates to climate change, changes in biodiversity, etc.  Take notes (either on your chart or a separate piece of paper) and be ready to discuss what you want to have as the focus of your project and why.  Note: the list of the topics and the issues to which the topics might be related are NOT exhaustive so feel free to add to both of those.