• University of Southampton

Beneath the Blue: The Importance of Marine Sediments

Understand the importance of our planet's seafloor and get an introduction to the exciting field of ocean science.

Beneath the Blue: The Importance of Marine Sediments
  • Duration3 weeks
  • Weekly study3 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $54Find out more

Discover fascinating seafloor habitats and learn how humans affect them

Exactly what lies beneath our oceans? Why is the sea floor, and its marine sediments, so important? And how are humans affecting them? On this course you’ll answer these questions and more.

You will consider the importance of the seafloor and learn about its part in global ecological, chemical and physical processes. You will learn about the vital role that the seafloor plays in providing ecosystem services to society, the current rate at which humans are exploiting seafloor habitats and the need to conserve these systems.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsMARTIN SOLAN: The oceans cover a staggering 360,000 square kilometres, or about 70% of the earth's surface. But if we were to drain the oceans away, we'd see one of the largest habitats on earth-- the sediments below us. My name is Martin Solan. I'm a professor in marine ecology at the University of Southampton. I'm interested in the diversity of organisms that live in sediments-- what they do, how they interact, how they respond to change, and how, ultimately, they affect things that we care about. Because they do affect things we care about. As we've been learning recently, it's vitally important to protect our seas. But it's just as important to protect what sits underneath them.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsIt's easy to look at the intertidal shores and miss the important role they play in our lives. It is, after all, just mud. But it's mud that is teeming with life. It plays a huge role in protecting our environment, providing nutrients to sustain biological communities, as well as providing us with mineral and biological resources. We know what happens to marine ecosystems when we warm the planet because we've seen it up close in the fossil record. What this means is that we can use the lessons of the past to help us understand the present and protect the future of these ecosystems.

What topics will you cover?

  • The composition and global distribution of marine sediments.
  • Biodiversity; how it is measured and how it has changed through geological time.
  • Scientific illustration and taxonomy (the classification of living organisms).
  • Defining and classifying functional groups.
  • How humans benefit from, and impact on, marine benthic ecosystem processes.

When would you like to start?

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What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain what biodiversity is and how it evolved over geological time.
  • Discuss why biodiversity is important and how marine communities deliver important services that benefit humans.
  • Explore the diversity of marine sediments and how communities of organisms inhabit them.
  • Identify marine organisms using a taxonomic key.
  • Discuss the challenges of measuring and quantifying biodiversity in marine environments.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of functional groups.

Who is the course for?

This course is for students from pre-A level to undergraduate who have a passion for, or are studying, marine science, biodiversity, earth systems, global change, ecosystem services or human interaction with marine environment.

It will also be of interest to teachers in these areas, or those with a general interest in ocean science.

Who will you learn with?

Martin Solan, a Professor in Marine Ecology at the University of Southampton, investigates how sediment-dwelling invertebrates, like worms, clams and shrimps, respond to change and effect ecosystems.

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Southampton with experience in marine benthic taxonomy. I'm currently studying how environmental change affects reproduction of important marine invertebrates

Who developed the course?

University of Southampton

Southampton is a place for ambitious people keen to stretch their intellectual abilities and help change the world.

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