interested in oceanography?

OCN 201: Science of the Sea

In Hawaiʻi, we know the importance of understanding the ocean. The ocean brings weather. It provides food. It’s where we go to relax! But understanding the ocean isn’t just for people living on islands and coastlines. The ocean affects everyone—whether they know it or not—and ocean science has never been more important due to the ocean’s key role in climate change.

Oceanography encompasses a wide range of scientific disciplines, all of which are interconnected. The geochemical, physical, and biological characteristics of the ocean all affect each other, which means you can’t study one without considering the others. For this reason, we call the field of oceanography interdisciplinary.

In OCN 201, you will learn the basics of each discipline while making connections between the disciplines along the way. Most of the topics covered are listed below. In the last module, we bring it all together and explore one of the most interdisciplinary (and most important) aspects of ocean science: climate change.


  • Planetary motion
  • Formation of matter
  • Ocean formation
  • Earth’s layers
  • Plate tectonics
  • Features of the seafloor
  • Seafloor spreading
  • Sediments and coastal processes


  • Role of the sun
  • Ocean nutrients
  • Deep ocean circulation
  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Coriolis effect
  • Ocean gyres
  • El Niño
  • Surface waves
  • Tides


  • Evolution of life
  • Marine habitats
  • Marine plankton
  • Marine bacteria and viruses
  • Marine invertebrates
  • Marine vertebrates
  • Ocean food webs
  • Coral reef communities
  • Deep-sea communities

Climate Change

  • Carbon cycle
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Sea level rise
  • Ocean warming
  • Ocean acidification
  • Ocean pollution
  • Effects on marine life
  • Climate solutions

OCN 201 is an online course with a mixture of asynchronous and synchronous content designed to bring the wide world of oceanography to students from any background. There is also OCN 201L which covers similar topics but in a lab format. Students can take 201 with or without also taking 201L. There are no prerequisites, which makes it a great course for students to explore their interests. Just bring your curiosity and appreciation for the ocean. You will learn the basics of ocean science across a wide range of topics and find out how amazing—and often strange!—the ocean is.

Learn more about OCN 201 here.