Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



Syllabi & Bibliographies

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The Atoll

Biology 320
Spring 1997

Professor Mark Merlin
Biology Program and Graduate Faculty,
Department of Geography
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Honolulu, HI 96822
phone number: 808-956-6038

This course presents an interdisciplinary perspective of atolls and other selected coral island environments. Geological, climatological, geomorphological, biological, ecological, and cultural aspects of these insular environments will be covered in this broadly-focused course. A major emphasis will be on the role of Homo Sapiens in changing these unique environments.


Alkire, William H. 1965 (update epilogue 1989).
Lamotrek Atoll and Inter-island Socioeconomic Ties

Other Readings:

Selected articles and chapters from a variety of sources, especially the Atoll Research Bulletin, Pacific Science, and Micronesica (some will be offered as handouts others will be put on reserved in Sinclair Library).

Student Evaluation:

One mid-term examination will account for 20%; The term paper and oral presentation will account for 35%; class participation will account for l0%; and a cumulative final exam will account for 35% of the grade. Examinations will consist of essay questions. Topics of research papers will depend on student interest and instructor approval. Attendance in class lecture is required.


Dates, Topics and Readings:
[a number of guest lecturers will take part in the lectures]

1/14 Introduction to course; student topic selection for term project/paper; an overview of atoll formation in the Hawaiian Islands.

1/16 Distribution of atolls and other coral islands (geography), with an emphasis on atolls in the Pacific.

1/21 Geological and biological origins of atolls -- More on plate tectonics, hot spots, life history of oceanic islands -- and other origin theories.

1/23 Climate I: including review of variation in rainfall distribution, seasonally and geographically; the hydrological cycle; severe storms and hurricanes/typhoon frequencies and impacts on low islands.

1/28 Climate II: including review of variation in rainfall distribution, seasonally and geographically; the hydrological cycle; severe storms and hurricanes/typhoon frequencies and impacts on low islands.

1/30 Oceanography -- currents, swells, waves, and tides.

2/4 Reefs, corals, and the origins of atoll islets.
(guest lecturer: Dr. James Maragos)

2/6 Marine mollusks of coral reefs.
(guest lecturer: Dr. Alison Kay)

2/11 Coralline algae, other seaweeds, and seagrasses: biogeography and ecology of these marine plants.
(guest lecturers: Dr. Kent Bridges and Dr. Celia Smith)

2/13 Marine crustaceans, polychaetes, echinoderms, porifera, and other coral reef animals.
(guest lecturer: Dr. L. Eldridge)

2/18 Reef and shore fishes of the tropical pacific.
(guest lecturer: Dr. Richard Pyle)

2/20 Terrestrial flora and vegetation -- native plants-- from intertidal zone to raised reef environments: origins and examples of dominant species in different vegetation types.

2/25 Birds on atolls with an emphasis on sea birds.
(guest lecturer: Dr. Sheila Conant)

2/27 Mid-term exam

3/4 Arrival and settlement of people on Pacific atolls; the third great wave of human migrations; the prerequisites of colonization, including navigational skills and long distance voyaging canoes, reef and lagoon harvest techniques, and specialized farming skills.

3/6 Pre-contact transported landscape; the alien plants and animals introduced intentionally and accidentally to the atolls.

3/11 Cultural ecology: variations upon the same general environmental theme, examples from Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia and the Indian Ocean.

3/13 Lamotrek atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia: a case study of society, environment, and inter-island exchange; adaptation to the hazards of severe storms and typhoons.

3/18 Lamotrek atoll II: (continuation of case study).

3/20 Lamotrek atoll III: (continuation of case study).

3/24-3/28 Spring Break

4/1 Modern impact on atolls, alien spp. (micro and macro organisms), imports of foreign material goods and services, population increases and declines, changes in subsistence activities, urbanization, pollution, warfare, and brain drain.

4/3 Modern impact on atolls, case studies I: Bikini, Enewetak, and Kwajelein Atolls. (Guest lecturers: Dr. James Maragos and others)

4/8 Modern impact on atolls, case studies II: Majuro, Tarawa, and Ebeye Islet.
(Guest lecturers: Dr. James Maragos and others)

4/10 Environmental Intervention Assessment for atoll environments; New Marine Classification and Coral Reef Initiative; the Northern Marshall Islands Survey.
(Guest lecturer)

4/15-5/6 student presentation of term projects/papers.

5/15 -- 12:00-2:00 -- Final Exam Biology 32

[Subject: Natural Science; Pacific/Comparative]

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