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Marine Megafauna: An Introduction to Marine Science and Conservation (Coursera)

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An introduction to the basics of marine science and conservation, brought to you with the help of sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and many more of the most compelling creatures in the ocean.

This course is about sea turtles, whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks, giant squid and other large ocean creatures - collectively known as marine megafauna - and what they can tell us about how the ocean works and why it is so important for all life on earth.

This course will help you learn about life in the ocean, how ocean ecosystems function, how scientists study the ocean, and the challenges we face in sustaining healthy oceans for the future. These topics will be explored using case studies that focus on charismatic marine megafauna species – the most compelling creatures in the ocean that capture our attention and inspire us to learn more.

The course starts with an examination of the physical dimensions of the world’s ocean and how we describe ocean zones based on the ecosystems found within them. Once these basics are covered, we will work through the evolution of life in the oceans and explore how marine animals have adapted to the challenges of a cold, dark and deep ocean. Throughout the class we will highlight how scientists study the oceans and the animals that live in them, providing glimpses of new technologies that boost our understanding of marine ecology. The course will also cover some of the challenges the oceans face due to human activities - exploring issues such as bycatch and climate change - and how they are affecting ocean species and systems.

Throughout the course we will connect with real marine science through the use of open access scientific articles published in the journal PLOS ONE. This means you will have to learn how to read scientific papers and extract the important bits of information from them. The articles you’ll be reading are all part of a new PLOS Collection focused on using open access research to teach marine science and conservation. You will also get to look at real datasets produced by scientists studying marine creatures and visualize them in freely available programs such as Google Earth.