CCST9023 Science, Technology and Big Data
The Oceans: Science and Society

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)

Course Description

The oceans are the last frontier on earth. They cover 70% of the earth’s surface, and yet we have mapped only 5% of the ocean floors. Given that the oceans are the primary reason that the Earth is habitable, increasing our understanding of this system and its role in the development of civilization, and our interdependence on the oceans’ many resources is critical. In this course we will explore the interactions between humans and the oceans throughout the history of civilization. Humans rely on the oceans for water supply, food, energy, and military and economic activities. We will discuss how historical and recent oceanographic explorations have enlightened our understanding of the earth and contributed to the advancement of technology. The course will also explore the human impacts on the oceans and how such impacts could in turn produce adverse effects on civilization – including climate change, and plastic oceans.

[This will be a compulsory field scheduled during Reading Week and a choice of field trip dates will be provided.]

Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the scientific process and how it relates to oceanography.
  2. Describe how global conflict and the quest for food and resources led to advancement in our understanding of the oceans.
  3. Evaluate critically the physical, chemical and biological impacts of human activities on the ocean systems.
  4. Apply knowledge on the human dependence on the oceans to decision making on policies pertaining to their management.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 8
Fieldwork / Visits 8
Reading / Self-study 60
Assessment: Essay / Laboratory report writing 22
Assessment: Debate presentation (incl preparation) 5
Assessment: Final class MCQ (incl preparation) 15
Total: 140

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Laboratory 35
Project 30
Mini debate 15
Final class MCQ 20

Required Reading

These readings are subject to change. More appropriate literature may be available later.

  • Charnock, H. (1973). H.M.S. Challenger and the development of marine science. The Journal of Navigation, 26(1), 1-12.
  • Kious, W. J., Tilling, R. I., & Geological Survey (U.S.). (1994). This dynamic earth: The story of plate tectonics. Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey. [Developing the Theory, pp. 14-30]. Also available from
  • Powell, H. (2008). Fertilizing the ocean with iron. Oceanus, 46(1), 4-9.
  • Reves-Sohn, R. (2004). Unique vehicles for a unique environment. Oceanus, 42(2), 25-27.
  • Safina, C. (1995). The world’s imperiled fish. Scientific American, 273(5), 46-53.
  • Viviano, F. (2005). China’s Great Armada. National Geographic, 208(1), 28-53.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr M.C. Cheung
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2241 5472
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr M.C. Cheung
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2241 5472
Dr C.A. Not
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tel: 3917 7831