12.097 | January IAP 2006 | Undergraduate

Chemical Investigations of Boston Harbor


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 4 sessions / week for 4 weeks, 2 hours / session

Labs: 5 sessions / week for 4 weeks, 4 hours / session

Lab Tour: 1 session / week for 4 weeks, 2 hours / session

1 all-day field trip


This new subject is designed so as to provide undergraduates (with focus on freshmen and sophomores) a broad practical experience in ocean chemistry and measurement. Through focused lectures, students are instructed in the fundamentals of the ocean environment, chemical sampling and analysis, and measurement and instrumentation. They apply these techniques in the field and the laboratory; through the semester, students also fabricate and test a specialized sensor and data logger. Written and oral reports are required of the students.

Subject Overview

There are three main elements to the course: Oceanic Chemical Sampling and Analysis, Instrumentation Development for the Ocean Environment, and the Larger Field of Ocean Science.

Chemical Sampling and Analysis

The subject begins with a day trip to Boston Harbor and Buzzards Bay aboard the WHOI coastal research vessel, the R/V Tioga. During this field trip, we will be collecting a series of water samples for analysis during this course. We will teach you some of the basic measurements that are standard for environmental analysis, including nutrient analyses and contaminant analyses. You will conduct each measurement on a subset of Boston Harbor samples and will be taught how to interpret the data. You will examine all the data collected by you and your classmates; each student will present a subset of the data and interpret it in the context of other data collected by the class. At the end of the course, you will have generated a chemical and physical snapshot of Boston Harbor and its surroundings.


Early in the subject, you are introduced to a data logging micro-processor and a water-depth sensor which will be used to measure tidal range off Woods Hole. We provide the necessary background to understand and implement the sensor. A portion of the available laboratory time in the subject is devoted to your building and testing the device - it will be field tested twice during your stay in Woods Hole.

Ocean Science

The goal is for students taking the course to gain an appreciation for how science is done in the ocean, and why. Drawing on current problems in the field, such as deep ocean circulation, carbon cycles, erosion, global warming, and energy, we will discuss throughout the semester how science can be applied to understand issues and support rational decisions.


Dr. Elizabeth Kujawinski, Assistant Scientist, Dept of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, WHOI
Dr. Sheri White, Assistant Scientist, Dept of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, WHOI
Dr. Franz Hover, Principal Research Engineer, Dept of Mechanical Engineering, MIT

The course is sponsored by the MIT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the MIT Center for Ocean Engineering and the WHOI Academic Programs Office.

Required Materials

Composition notebook with lines - this notebook must be brought to each lab session.
3-ring binder for all laboratory handouts.
Laptop computer (optional).


The course is P/F. Students will be evaluated based on completion of the assigned laboratory work, data reduction and analysis from laboratory exercises, and a final report / presentation on the students’ sampling device.