UMD MAR510/UML 84.653


Course Syllabus


The purpose of this course is to provide students with a basic understanding of the principles and processes controlling the distribution and speciation of chemical constituents in natural waters with primary emphasis on coastal marine waters.  The first part of the course provides an overview of the chemical composition of natural waters and is descriptive in nature.  A brief review of basic thermodynamics and chemical equilibria precede a discussion of carbonate equilibria and forms the basis for a more detailed examination of the distribution and speciation of nutrients, trace metals, trace organic compounds and radioisotopes.  Finally in the last part of the course, the student is introduced to a number of "critical" processes that are of primary importance in controlling the distribution, transport and fate of chemicals in the aquatic environment.  It is assumed that the student is well prepared in chemistry (undergraduate courses at least through organic) and has at least some familiarity with the physical and biological dynamics of aquatic systems (Physical and Biological Oceanography preferred but not required).

Active participation and discussion is encouraged.  Resources include the primary text  (Emerson, S.R. and Hedges, J.I., Chemical Oceanography and the Marine Carbon Cycle), selected texts, readings from the primary literature and other resources.  Student progress is assessed through performance on a combination of homework problem sets, mid-term and final exams, and participation in class discussions.


The course is offered in a distance learning format with lectures originating from either UMass Lowell or UMass Dartmouth.  Many Course Materials are provided on this web site ( including copies of PowerPoint slides for each lecture, handout materials, homework assignments as well as audio and video recordings of previous class sessions.  This semester on a trial basis, certain lectures will be provided in video format only.  Students will be notified in advance that they must watch the lecture video before coming to class.  Class time may then be used for a discussion of material, question and answer sessions, quizzes, sample calculations or other related activities.




  Supplementary Reading:

A list of general references as well as specific reading assignments will be provided before each class.  Reading assignments will be generally provided a week in advance.   Students should be prepared to discuss the content of the reading material assigned for each lecture. Lecture presentations assume you have read and digested the material before class.

In addition to the principal text (Emerson and Hedges) there will be frequent readings selected from other more advanced texts and the primary literature.  Those intending to go on to more advanced work in environmental and/or marine chemistry are strongly encouraged to purchase a copy of Stumm and Morgan (1996) and Schwarzenbach et al. (1993) for their libraries (see general reference list for full citations).   Those wishing to refer to a more basic text should consider purchasing Libes (2009) available through numerous web sites (try  This text is designed as an upper level undergraduate, beginning graduate level text.  In addition, where appropriate, references to useful Web sites will be provided.  It is assumed that you have access to a computer and to the internet.  You should be familiar with the use of word processors and spreadsheet software as well.


To help students understand the theory and application of powerful modeling and calculation tools, Virtual Labs or Workshops are planned for each campus (Dartmouth & Lowell).  The time and location of each Virtual lab session will be announced in class and posted on this website well in advance of its meeting.  Sessions are anticipated to last from 2 to 3 hours and will enable students to conduct hands-on problem solving exercises with the guidance of faculty instructors.  Each Virtual Lab will be scheduled around an assigned take-home Problem Sets in order that students can perform necessary calculations in advance of the Lab meeting.  Additional details concerning Virtual Labs will be provided in class.



Students are encouraged to contact anyone of the instructors at any time to discuss any aspects of the course and course work.  Because of the rapid pace and broad nature of the course, students are strongly encouraged to seek help sooner rather than later to avoid getting too far behind.  Similarly it is strongly recommended that students stay abreast of the substantial reading assignments and bring questions regarding the readings to our attention in a timely fashion. Phone and email contacts will be posted on the web site.




Dr. Mark Altabet

Dr. David Ryan
(508) 999-8197 (Fax)
(508) 999-8622 (SMAST)

(978) 934-3698 (Tel)

(978) 934-3569 (FAX)




1)        Descriptive Chemical Oceanography (fundamentals)

                        - large scale circulation and water masses (conveyer belts) - 2 layer

                        - vertical and horizontal distributions (basin scale)

                        - nutrient-like behavior


2)         Physical Chemistry of Seawater (elementary or basic chemistry

                        - physicochemical properties

                        - properties and structure of water

                        - major, minor, trace components

                        - units, types of concentration

                        - macroscopic, colligative properties

                        - salinity, chlorinity, density (influence on circulation), vertical stability - PSU

                        - constancy of composition

                        - optical properties


3)         Equilibrium Concepts

                        - remember your chemistry

                        - chemical potential

                        - activity and fugacity

                        - Henry’s Law


4)         Geochemical Cycles (Broecker & Peng)

                        - resonance time concept

                        - nitrogen and posphorous cycles

                        - controls on biological production and organic matter export

                        - influence on atmospheric CO2

                        - sources and sinks (weathering, atmospheric, hydrothermal, biosythesis)

                        - organic production/decomposition (Redfield Stoichiometry)

                        - dissolved gases - solubility f(T,S,etc), AOU, gas exchange

                        - nutrient biogeochemical cycles (N,P,Si)

                        - seasonal cycles (coastal processes)

                        - eutrophication


5)         Carbonate System

                        - equilibria

                        - basic equations, alkalinity, Henry’s Law

                        - influence of master variables (pH, 3CO2, Alkalinity)

                        - effects of organic production/decomposition

                        - forcing of p CO2 variations

                        - CCD and seafloor CaCO3 distributions

- global carbon cycle


6)         Organic Geochemistry

                        - basic organic chemistry of seawater

                        - early diagenesis (humics)

                        - production

                        - degradation

                        - preservation

                        - modification

                        - vertical transport

                        - DOM and sediment organic matter



7)         Trace Metals/Metal Geochemistry

                        - biochemical rules

                        - Fe limitation and HNLC region

                        - speciation

                        - toxicity

                        - anthropogenic influence


8)         Tracers (water column and sediment)

                        - radioisotopes

                        - stable

                        - molecular


9)       Special Topics (case studies from instructors research in a model construct)

- early diagenesis

- carbon sequestration


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