Beam Reach course outcome guide (syllabus) for
Practicing sustainability science

Course data and contact information

Number: OCEAN 365
Title: Sustainability Sci
Location: Friday Harbor Laboratories
Quarter credits: 8
Contact: Scott Veirs

Official description (published in UW Time Schedule)

Intensive off-campus experience studying sustainability science, marine policy, and "clean" technologies. Interact with community stakeholders for 5 weeks. Then experiment with sustainable technologies and practices in the marine environment during a 5-week cruise aboard an energy-efficient sailing catamaran. Academic maturity of an advanced sophomore required. Offered jointly with OCEAN 360.

Expanded description

This course is a major component of the 10-week undergraduate curriculum of the Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School ( and is designed to give you first-hand experience with real-world marine policy issues and the technologies that can help to mitigate marine environmental problems. Like other Beam Reach courses, the first half of the course is based on land, the second half occurs at sea en route to a final destination port.

During the land component, this course uses short (day- to week-long) projects and field trips for 3 purposes. First, field trips and associated readings help you develop the broad societal (as opposed to scientific) motivation for your main research project. Second, short research exercises enable you to practice the methods and use the instruments that will be critical to completing your research at sea. Third, you will interact with local decision makers (like the members Marine Resource Committee) and see how scientific information is used to define and work toward marine sustainability.

The course also exposes you directly to sustainable practices and technologies, both on shore and at sea. You tour technologies that reduce environmental impacts in local island communities, experiment with similar technologies on the Beam Reach "sustainability ship," and propose and analyze improvements in both contexts. Finally, the course guides you through the formulation and implementation of a service project with stakeholders in the destination port. The project usually involves an exchange of information or technology between the Beam Reach students and the destination port community.

Course objectives

Intended student learning outcomes

  1. Develop working definitions of sustainability, science, and sustainability science
  2. Be able to formulate a question that can be answered or addressed through scientific processes
  3. acquire and retain new information from readings, oral presentations, and/or discussions
  4. Make cogent reference to historical case studies in which human interaction with the ocean was (a) unsustainable and (b) sustainable
  5. Be able to assess the sustainability of an activity or system through simple, quantitative analysis
  6. Be able to use basic software tools for data analysis (including basic statistics), graphing, and written/oral presentation

Course format

The 10-week course is divided evenly into land and sea components. The land component takes place on the campus of the UW Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island in Washington State. Students live and eat on campus and attend class from 8-12 am and 2-6 pm. The sea component is a research voyage in Puget Sound and/or the Northeast Pacific ocean during which students and teachers operate a sailing vessel and scientific equipment 24/7 on a watch schedule. Students have their own bunk, cook and maintain the vessel cooperatively, and attend a daily afternoon class in addition to standing their watch.

Learning activities

Learning assessment tasks (evaluation and grading)

  1. faculty assessment of questions posed during ecology exercise and in short projects based on questions rubric; faculty assessment of inquisitiveness during field trips, group activities, and discussions
  2. automatic (extra credit) grading of on-line quizzes designed by faculty and students to test comprehension of reading, oral presentations, and/or discussions
  3. faculty assessment of short research exercises based on a scientific process rubric
  4. peer and/or faculty grading of student analyses of sustainability case studies and technologies throughout the land and sea components
  5. stakeholders, peers, and faculty judge implementation of the final service project, yielding a measure of overall mastery of sustainability issues

Course content

Text(s) and required materials

None. Readings will be available through the course web site and/or library at the Friday Harbor Laboratories.