OCEAN 235: Arctic Change

An interdisciplinary science-based look at what everyone should know about the Arctic today.

The Arctic is no longer remote.  Arctic sea-ice loss, shipping through the legendary Northwest Passage, the international land-grab for the North Pole and the Arctic sea floor, Arctic oil and gas exploration, the fate of the polar bear – these and more are all household terms.  Yet, many people’s understanding of this system and the reality of the issues is based primarily on news and media coverage.  The UW houses a remarkably wide range of world-class Arctic research – this course will access that knowledge base and provide an interdisciplinary, science-based introduction to Arctic science and topical world issues that are at the forefront of understanding how the Arctic works today, how the Arctic is changing, and what impacts those changes may have on us.

     We will investigate the Arctic ocean, ice and atmosphere system; Arctic ecosystems from the “charismatic megafauna” (polar bears and more) to the (not so charismatic?) microbes that exist inside the matrix structure of sea-ice; and how humans interact with the Arctic system.  We will study how we got to know what we know, how we advance our knowledge now, and how Arctic studies may look in the future.  We will consider how the components interact, how they are changing, what the future may hold, and what international governments are squabbling over at the minute.  We will include guest lectures by internationally recognized UW experts in a wide range of fields.

     The course is offered at the 200 level, to interest both those considering a major in science and those who seek a topical course to fulfill an out-of-option requirement.  It will provide a level of understanding suitable for those going onto a career in many non-science fields, including education, government advising, and Arctic-relevant industry.  It will also provide a science introduction that may spark enthusiasm for a major in science.
       This course is offered at the 2-credit and 3-credit level, the 3-credit version including extra science content.  Students seeking an introduction to the material with a smaller commitment of time are recommended to take the 2-credit version.  The course is a core course of UW's new Arctic Studies Minor, and to qualify for the Arctic Minor, this course should be taken at the 3-credit level.