Biological Oceanography Lab
(BIOL 451W/MARS 451W)
Fall 2007

Tuesday Lab: Dr. Sue Lowery Wednesday Lab: Dr. Ron Kaufmann

Office: ST 482; x4078;

Office: ST 277; x5904; or

Mo 1:30-3:30, Tu 10:00-12:00, Fr 1:30-2:30

or by appointment

Tu, Th 8:00-10:30

or by appointment


Sep 11-12


Writing, Statistics, Safety Training

Reading - Knisely Ch. 3, Appendix 2
Excel Handout     Excel Exercise
Sep 18-19

Cruise Preparation

Reading - Hayward (1997)
Sep 22-23

Class Cruise - Participant List
Cruise Handouts - 1  2  3  4  5  6  7


Data/Samples for Reports
CTD Data

Sep 25-26

Analysis of Cruise Plankton  PPT

Sample Calculations; References
Abstract Writing - Handout

Review of Writing Guidelines


Oct 2-3

Analysis of Cruise Plankton  PPT
Writing Style/Abstract Exercises

Reading - Knisely Ch. 4
Plankton Data

Oct 9-10

Beach Field Trip

Start Planning Projects


Reading - Knisely Ch. 6
Field Notes

Oct 16-17

Analysis of Cruise Benthos


Multicorer Sheets

07-103   07-203   07-303

Sediment Data
Benthic Faunal Data

Draft Report #1 Due Oct 19

Oct 23-24 Intertidal Field Trip
Canceled (Fire)

Reading - Knisely Ch. 5
Field Notes
Oct 30-31

Analysis of Cruise Benthos
Project Outlines due

Lecture; Lab Notes
Final Report #1 Due Nov 2

Nov 6-7

Deep-Sea Biology  PPT

Project Proposals due


Lecture; Lab Notes


Nov 13-14 Wetlands Field Trip

Field Notes
Draft Report #2 Due Nov 16 


Nov 20-21

Independent Projects

Nov 27-28

Independent Projects


Final Report #2 Due Dec 2
Dec 4-5

Independent Projects


Reading - Knisely Ch. 7
Dec 11-12 Poster Presentations

Coffee and Cookies!
Project Summary Due Dec 11-12


Text:  A Student Handbook for Writing in Biology, Second Edition, Knisely

     Lab reports (2)
100 points
     Independent Project
100 points

50 points

350 points

    You will receive a single grade for BIOL 451W, of which your lab grade will count for 40%.
    You must receive passing grades in both lecture and lab to pass BIOL 451W.

Lab Reports
    You will write two major lab reports for this class.  Each lab report will consist of a 10-15 page paper covering the important features of one aspect of the Sproul cruise, including analysis and discussion of the samples and data collected.  Each paper should be written in scientific journal format, including references.  You frequently will work in groups, but lab reports should be written individually.  Rough drafts of the lab reports will be due two weeks after the class in which the relevant data are collected.  Rough drafts will be reviewed but not graded and returned to you approximately one week before the final reports are due.  Comments on the rough drafts should help you improve your final reports and hone your scientific writing skills.  You are required to turn in complete drafts for both lab reports; failure to submit a complete rough draft will result in a one letter grade penalty on your final report.  Both rough and final reports will be due by 11:59 pm on the dates indicated in the syllabus, unless the due date is modified by the instructor.  Late reports will be penalized at a rate of 5% for each day the paper is tardy.  You will be required to turn in electronic copies of your final lab reports.

Independent Projects
    In addition to the field exercises that are part of this course, you and one or two partners will conduct an independent research project.  This project can be carried out on your own time, or you are welcome to take advantage of our scheduled field trips to collect data for your project.  You also will the opportunity to work on your projects during scheduled class time in late November and Early December.  Project proposals are due in late October and count for 25% of your project grade.  Proposals need not be lengthy (one or two pages generally is sufficient), but they should include the rationale for your project, an outline of what you propose to do, a brief sampling/experimental schedule and protocol, and a supply/equipment list, including prices of items that aren’t available on campus.  The proposal also should include references to literature that provide the background for your work.  Don’t worry about making this the most elegant, sophisticated, meaningful, Nobel-worthy project anyone ever designed - just make it interesting, feasible, scientifically sound and not too complicated.  There is a limited budget for project supplies, and projects generally shouldn’t require any out-of-pocket expenditures, provided expenses are reasonable.
    The results of your project will be presented to the class in scientific poster format on the last day of class (Dec 11-12).  Each group will stand/sit near its poster, describe their projects and findings, and answer questions from students and faculty.  Half the class will be near their posters for the first half of the lab period, while the other half of the class walks around and looks at the posters.  Students who walked around during the first half of class will be near their posters for the second half of the lab period, while the first group of students will have a chance to walk around and read other groups’ posters.  Poster boards and push pins will be provided, but each group will be responsible for furnishing its own graphics to mount on the boards.  As in the case of the projects themselves, the posters should reflect a group effort.  The poster and your ability to describe the project and interpret your findings will constitute 65% of your project grade.
    There are some informative web sites that include guidelines for making good scientific posters.  These include:
    Eastern Kentucky University
    North Carolina State University
    Swarthmore College
    Virginia Tech University
    On the day of the poster session, you will be required to turn in a one-page summary of your project.  This summary should be written in the style of a scientific abstract and should include the rationale behind your project, a brief description of your methods and brief summaries of your results and major conclusions.  As with the lab reports, the projects will involve group collaboration, but the summaries should be written individually.  Project summaries will count for 10% of your project grade.

Guidelines for Writing Scientific Research Papers
    The information contained in this section should help you to write good, clear, well-organized scientific research papers.  Although it may seem that scientists don’t need to write well in order to succeed, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Being a scientist does not excuse you from the need to become a competent writer.  Good scientists have the ability to communicate the results of their studies in concise, unambiguous language that conveys to the reader a clear picture of the work that was performed and an interpretation of the results that were obtained.  Helping you improve your scientific writing skills is an important goal of this course.

    These guidelines consists of several sections: the first describes the structure of a research paper; the second discusses the use of published material, sharing of information, and academic integrity; and the last contains specific suggestions based on common flaws seen in student research papers.  Reading these guidelines and following the suggestions do not guarantee you success in your writing courses.  However, failing to pay attention to the proper structure of a scientific paper and making many of the common mistakes described below virtually guarantee that you will have to spend extra time making corrections to your drafts in order to avoid lower grades.

    A typical scientific research paper consists of an Abstract and four sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.  For this class, please also include a cover sheet on the final copy of each lab report.  Cover sheets aren’t necessary for rough drafts.  The cover sheet should include a descriptive title, i.e. something more than "plankton report", your name, the class name or number, the name of your lab instructor and the date.  All pages other than the cover sheet should be numbered, have 1" margins and have a line spacing of 1.5.

    The Abstract should be a brief summary of your entire report.  This means that the abstract should contain a brief summary of each major section of your report (Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion).  The bulk of the Abstract should deal with your results and conclusions, but it is important to give the reader a brief introduction to your project and an abbreviated description of your methods.  Typically, two or three sentences should be sufficient to cover your introduction and methods, and the remainder of the Abstract should cover the results and interpretation.  Don’t use verbatim text in your Abstract that is found elsewhere in your report.  Of course, the Abstract covers material that is found elsewhere in the report, but make sure that your Abstract is an original piece of text and not simply a patchwork of sentences from the rest of your paper.  In general, references are not cited in the Abstract unless there is a strong reason to draw material from a specific published source.  It is recommended that you write the Abstract last, after the rest of the report is complete and satisfactory to you.

    The Introduction should give the reader background information regarding your study and report.  It should contain relevant material from published sources (be sure to cite your sources), starting with general information about the field of inquiry and ending with a paragraph describing the purpose of your particular study.  It often is useful to end the Introduction with a sentence or paragraph that provides a good transition into your Methods section.  The Introduction should be fairly complete but also concise: material that is interesting but isn’t related directly to your report should not be included.  A tremendous amount of information is available over the Internet, but use internet sources for your papers only with great caution.  Very few of them contain verifiable, well-documented information about marine organisms and communities, and almost none are peer-reviewed, whereas most of the major oceanographic journals are thoroughly reviewed.  Most of the literature you cite in this section and elsewhere should be primary scientific publications: research papers written about a specific set of experiments or observations, rather than a textbook-style compilation of material from multiple published sources.  A good review paper can be extremely useful, but please don’t cite textbooks heavily.

    The Methods section should be complete and written in such a way that the reader can understand your protocol and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the results you obtained.  Do not assume that the reader knows anything about your methodology prior to reading your paper.  Unless the information is crucial to an understanding of your results, you do not need to include fine details such as model and part numbers for equipment and titles of specific software used to manipulate or plot data.  If statistical indices were calculated from your data, it may be useful to include the formulas for those indices.  Copying or even close paraphrasing of methods from lab handouts is not acceptable.

    Your Results section should include a description of the general trends and patterns that your data exhibit.  The description of your results should not include a point-by-point discussion of every single observation you made, nor should it entail simply rehashing every piece of information that is in your tables and figures.  Report the overall patterns and any highlights that seem particularly important.  Don’t dwell on shortcomings or limitations of your data - these should be used to qualify your results, not upstage them.  Your tables and figures should be referenced as you mention the information they contain, but don’t just refer to your tables and figures in lieu of a written description.

Right: The abundance of Plocamium increased with increasing distance offshore (Fig. 2).  Brown algae comprised 20% or more of the total macroalgal assemblage at sites 1 and 2 (Figs. 2, 3) but were virtually absent from sites 3 and 4 (Figs. 4, 5).
Wrong: Distributions of algae are illustrated in Figures 2-7.  Invertebrate abundances can be found in Table 2.

    The Discussion involves interpreting your results using the background and expectations you outlined in the Introduction with any considerations that arise from your methods.  In many ways, the Discussion is the most important section of your paper, since this section should contain your own, original interpretation of the data and connections to the existing information on the subject.  You should evaluate possible explanations for your data, based on your personal experience as well as material in published sources.  Don’t present interpretations based on measurements you didn’t make and don’t extrapolate conclusions far beyond the level that your data will support.  Speculation is fine, but not if it goes far beyond the scope of your data.  Be very clear about which conclusions are yours and which come from other sources.  Remember to cite published sources in your Discussion, since you will be comparing your results to expectations based on previously published data.  Be creative but reasonable: a novel, innovative explanation is wonderful but not if it isn’t realistic.

The References section should include all of the sources that you have cited in your paper or poster.  References should be cited in alphabetical order.  If you have read a reference but have not cited it, do not include it in your References section.  There are many different formats for references, and each scientific journal has its own style for citations and references.  For this class, please use the following format.

Journal Article - Single Author

Voronina, N.M. 1998. Comparative abundance and distribution of major filter-feeders in the Antarctic pelagic zone. Journal of Marine Systems 17: 375-390.


Journal Article - Two Authors

Sprong, I. and P.H. Schalk, 1992. Acoustic observations on krill spring-summer migration and patchiness in the northern Weddell Sea. Polar Biology 12: 261-268.


Journal Article - Three or More Authors

Wiebe, P.H., A.W. Morton, A.M. Bradley, R.H. Backus, J.E. Craddock, V. Barber, T.J. Cowles, and G.R. Flierl. 1985. New developments in the MOCNESS, an apparatus for sampling zooplankton and micronekton. Marine Biology 87: 313-323.


Technical Report

Bakun, A. 1973. Coastal upwelling indices, west coast of North America, 1946-1971. NOAA Tech. Rep. NMFS SSRF-671. 103 pp.



Zar, J.H., 1999. Biostatistical Analysis, fourth edition. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 929 pp.


For citations in the text of your paper, put the name of the author(s) in parentheses, followed by the year in which the work was published. Separate multiple references in a single set of parentheses with commas. For example:

A long-term discrepancy was found between the supply of food measured at abyssal depths and its demand by the benthic community from 1989-1996 in the NE Pacific Ocean (Smith and Kaufmann 1999, Smith et al. 2001).

Single author publications should be cited as author and publication year, with a space in between.  For example:

        Dissolved oxygen is an important factor affecting benthic communities (Johnson 1998).

Two author publications should be cited as both authors' names and publication year.  Publications with three or more authors should be cited as the first author's name, followed by "et al." (Latin for "and others") and the publication year.  The first example in this section shows the correct citation format for dual author and multi-author references.

    Working in groups and using information from published sources can create some confusion about proper use and referencing of material that you did not generate yourself.  Here are some guidelines to help you collaborate with your classmates productively and use but not misuse information produced by others.
    An important part of this class involves working with your fellow students to collect and evaluate data as part of the research process.  For the two lab reports, everyone in the class will be analyzing and writing about the same data sets, and this creates opportunities for positive interactions as well as inappropriate collaborations.  Acceptable behavior includes working together to find and identify useful literature references apart from those provided by the instructor; discussing data, analytical procedures and results; and exchanging ideas about how to present information and organize your lab reports.
    Unacceptable behavior includes using the same tables or figures in two different lab reports; copying or paraphrasing text from another student’s lab report; and reporting the results of statistical analyses performed by another student.
    It is expected that you will read scientific publications and incorporate into your papers some of the findings and ideas contained in those published works.  When you refer to information generated by someone else, it is important to credit the source of that information.  Commonly, that credit comes in the form of a parenthetical citation.  For example:

Iron limitation in the waters of the Southern Ocean may limit phytoplankton production, even though other nutrients may be present in abundance within the surface waters (Martin et al., 1990).

    This sentence contains a conclusion described by John Martin and two of his colleagues in a paper published in 1990.  It could be appropriate for you to include a sentence like this in one of your papers, but since you didn’t perform the research that led to this conclusion you need to cite the people who did.  (The term et al. is an abbreviation for et alia, which means “and others” in Latin.  This term is used to indicate that there are three or more authors on the publication, and it is italicized because it’s not an English term.)
    Neglecting to properly cite another person’s work is a form of plagiarism, the practice of reporting someone else’s work as your own.  There are other forms of plagiarism as well, including: copying portions of text verbatim from published sources (including the internet), receiving unauthorized assistance on papers, and drawing material from similar papers written by other students.  Plagiarism constitutes a serious breach of professional ethics as well as a violation of the University of San Diego’s academic integrity policy.  If an instructor has reason to believe that an act of plagiarism has occurred, an academic integrity report MUST be filed with the dean of the college and an academic integrity hearing may be convened.  If the academic integrity hearing committee determines that plagiarism has occurred, disciplinary action may range from loss of points or a grade penalty to expulsion from the university.  Bottom line: do your own work and don’t copy the work of others.  Plagiarism is unethical, it’s way too easy to get caught, and being called before an academic integrity hearing committee is far more unpleasant than simply doing your own work.
    Any questions about what constitute acceptable procedures for sharing of data, exchange of ideas, citation of sources, or any other academic integrity issues should be addressed to your instructor.  Better safe than sorry!

    Here are some additional suggestions that might be useful to you in writing your lab reports.  They are not presented in order of importance, so please read and heed them all.

General Practices

1. Organize your report before you begin writing.  One way to do this is by constructing an outline that you can follow and flesh out as you write.  Too often, people begin writing without a clear idea of what they’re trying to convey and in what order they want to present material; this may produce results that confuse the reader.

2. When writing a lab report or paper it often is useful to create your figures and tables first and structure your report around them.  Many people find it difficult to write a report before they know what material they will present and how their results will appear.

3. Collaborating on data analysis and discussing results and their interpretation with other students is fine and can be very beneficial.  However, you must form your own conclusions, write all of your own papers, and produce all of your own graphics, unless specifically instructed otherwise.

4. Define or explain briefly technical terms and abbreviations when they first appear in your report.  It doesn’t do any good to discuss Ic and its typical range in phytoplankton if the reader has no idea what Ic is.

5. Try to avoid writing in the first person.  It generally is preferable to write “Sediment grain size distributions were determined” instead of “We determined sediment grain size distributions”.

6. In practice, science does not involve conclusive proof of hypotheses.  Scientific hypotheses can be refuted but not proven conclusively, although they may be supported or confirmed by evidence.  Don’t claim that hypotheses were proven, demonstrated, or shown to be true.  Example: you may hypothesize that all fishes have dorsal fins.  Finding one fish without a dorsal fin would allow you to refute that hypothesis, but you could never prove that all fishes have dorsal fins unless you had seen all fishes, a practical impossibility.

7. Be correct and consistent in your use of grammar.  Since you will be reporting the results of research that has been completed, it usually is appropriate to write in the past tense.

8. Information acquired from another source needs to be properly referenced.  Don’t ever include material or data that you did not write or collect yourself without giving proper credit to the originator(s).  Do not cite your lecture or lab instructor as a reference.  Where multiple references are being cited together, citations should occur in ascending chronological order.

9. Citing the source from which material was taken does not mean you can use that material verbatim in your report.  Any verbatim passages should be set off in quotation marks and a citation should be included.  However, if you do this too frequently, the reader will get the impression that you didn’t really write your own paper.

10. Don’t cite sources only at the ends of the paragraphs.  Cite them in the sentences in which they are referenced.  It is not necessary to cite every reference at the end of every sentence, and if you write two or three consecutive sentences that contain material from a single source, cite that source at the end of the final sentence.

11. Textbooks generally are not acceptable as references.  The majority of your citations should come from primary literature, i.e. references that were written by the people who carried out the research being reported.  Review articles also may be useful, but typically are most useful for background information and the excellent reference lists they often contain.

12. Proofread and spell check your lab report carefully before you hand it in.  Technical terms may be particularly problematic, because they are not included in most spell check software.  Take special care to make sure you know how to spell technical terms correctly.

Figures and Tables

13. Scientific papers typically include two types of objects that are used to summarize data: figures and tables.  Do not refer to graphs, maps or charts; all these generally are considered to be figures.

14. Tables and figures should be mentioned for the first time in ascending numerical order.  Tables and figures should be numbered to conform to this standard.  If at some point you rearrange the order in which figures or tables are mentioned, you may need to renumber them.  Include figures and tables on separate pages after the body of the report and the reference list.  Figure and table captions may be included on the same pages as the figures and tables, or they may be placed separately after the literature cited and before the tables and figures.

15. In general, tables should not include the raw data collected as part of your lab project.  Report means, standard deviations and numbers of observations, not the observations themselves.  All tables and figures should have descriptive captions (not titles), axis labels and legends, although you do not need to include a legend if there is only one data series on a figure.

16. Always include units in tables and figures, and never report a number without the appropriate units.  Use standard abbreviations for units, e.g. ml, mm, instead of writing out “milliliters”, etc.  Use SI units only: km, m, cm, mm, kg, g, mg, l, ml, not feet, inches, furlongs, foot candles, bushels, etc.

Specific Guidelines

17. Be aware that the words “significant” and "variance" have specific statistical meanings in science.  If you write that significant differences existed between two sets of measurements you are implying that those differences were statistically significant and that you have done the appropriate statistical tests to support this conclusion.  If this is not what you mean, don’t use the term “significant”.  Suggested alternatives include “substantial”, “noticeable” and “distinct”, but there are many others.  The word "variance" often is used inappropriately when "variation", "variety", or "variability" is intended.

18. The word “data” is plural.  The singular of “data” is “datum”.  Please use this word appropriately.

    Right: The data indicate a reduction in upwelling intensity during July and August.
     Wrong: Hydrographic data was collected at all three sites.

19. Common grammatical errors include the use of “it’s” (the contraction for “it is”) instead of “its” (the possessive form of it) and the confusion of “affect” (the verb meaning “to influence”) and “effect” (a noun meaning “result” or “outcome” and a verb meaning “cause”).

    Right: Temperature may have affected oxygen uptake rates.
     Right: Water movement had a noticeable effect on turbidity.
     Right: A change in color was effected by stirring the solution. {Note: this usage is uncommon.}
Sediment grain size had the largest affect on meiofaunal diversity.

20. Genus names should be capitalized and species names should not.  Both should be in italics, for example Homo sapiens.  The word “species” and the abbreviation “sp.” should not be italicized, even if they’re part of an apparently scientific name, for example Haliotis species or Calanus sp.  The names of higher taxonomic groups (Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family) should not be italicized.

21. Don’t use subjective terms or excessively casual language.  Examples of sentences that you should not write include:

“There were some shells on the beach near the water.”
“Lots of fish were swimming in the water near the site.”
“Site 4 was basically just a pretty uniform sandy beach environment.”
“In general, the physical data indicated we were in an estuary.”

22. Be conscious of not reporting numbers to a level of precision not supported by the measurement techniques.  If you report the mean of three temperatures of 16.0, 16.5 and 16.5, the result is 16.3 deg, not 16.33333.

23. You don’t need to cite data analysis or plotting software or describe the compilation of data.  For example, don’t write “Data were entered into a spreadsheet and graphs were plotted using Excel.”

24. Report values less than one (1) as 0.xx, not .xx.

    Right: The evenness index at site 2 was 0.54, compared to 0.33 at site 3.
    Wrong: Oxygen concentrations in the Southern California Basins range from .1 to .3 mg l-1.

25. The word “between” is used to compare two items.  For example, “there was no difference in sea surface temperature between sites 1 and 2.”  Comparisons of three or more items should involve the word “among”.  For instance, “Station 3 had the highest concentration of zooplankton among the three sites sampled.”

26. Compound verbs generally should not be split by adverbs or other modifying terms.

    Right: Phosphate concentrations often have been found to influence phytoplankton abundance.
    Right: These results could have been related to the lower sediment organic content at site 2.
    Wrong: Meiofaunal densities at site 2 were clearly elevated compared to site 1.

    Wrong: Currents in the Southern California Bight are known to generally flow southward.

27. Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  Some commonly confused homonyms are:

    site vs. sight
    course vs. coarse
    than vs. then
    do vs. due

    their vs. there vs. they're

    bight vs. bite

28. Be careful about incorrect use of words such as "ideal", "optimal", "perfect", "maximum", etc.  In practice, it's very difficult to determine when one of these words could be applied legitimately, and it's better to use other superlatives instead.

29. Words like "this", "these", "it", and "they" can be ambiguous unless they are used in a context where their meaning is clear.

    Right: These results suggest that grazing by zooplankton may have affected phytoplankton density.
    Right: Profiles like these are typical of a near-shore upwelling system.
    Wrong: Foraminiferans may be rare in organic rich sediments.  This may explain what we observed.

    Wrong: A crucible was filled with sediment until it weighed 15 g.

    Wrong: An increase in phytoplankton leads to an increase of zooplankton biomass because they have a greater food supply.

30. Comparative terms should be used to draw comparisons between two or more facts or figures.

    Right: Core 1 contained fewer polychaetes than cores 2 or 3.
    Wrong: Sediments from station 1 held less water.

31. Units should be separated by a single space from the numbers that precede them.  Also, you should follow the convention that reports units with exponents, not slashes.


    Right: Individuals larger than 25 mm in diameter were placed in a separate vial.

    Right: Concentrations of chlorophyll a ranged from 234 - 567 µg ml-1.

    Wrong: More individuals were found in the 0-2cm section than in the 2-5cm section of the sediments.

    Wrong: Sediments finer than 500um were rare at this site.

    Wrong: Densities of phytoplankton were consistently less than 5 individuals/cm3.


32. The words "amount" and "number" aren't interchangeable.  "Amount" refers to things that can't be counted individually (amount of water, amount of sediment).  "Number" refers to things that can be counted individually (number of organisms, number of individuals).  The terms "less" and "fewer" follow the same rules.  "Less" refers to things that can't be counted individually, and "fewer" refers to things that can.


    Right: The number of species at station 1 was greater than the number at stations 2 and 3.

    Right: A greater amount of organic material may have been reaching the community at this site.

    Right: Fewer shore birds were observed near the mouth of the estuary than on the nearby mud flat.

    Wrong: There was a sharp decrease in the amount of organisms per unit volume between sites 1 and 2.

    Wrong: Sediments near the coast contained less nematodes than sediments from offshore.


33. The terms "found", "seen", "observed", "in order", etc. sometimes can clutter a sentence unnecessarily.


    Right: Temperature and salinity at station 3 may have influenced phytoplankton density.

    Right: Similarities between nematode densities at these two sites may have resulted from similarities in sediment organic content.

    Wrong: The high density of chain forming diatoms found at station 1 correlated with high concentrations of silica (Fig. 7).

    Wrong: Differences among polychaete densities seen at these sites appeared to be related to grain size.

    Wrong: Water samples were filtered in order to remove particles from the solution.


34. Do not switch verb tense within a sentence.


    Right: Polychaetes and other infauna burrow in the sea floor, disturbing the sediment surface and mixing sediment particles.

    Right: The pycnocline acts as a barrier to vertical mixing and provides structure within the water column.

    Wrong: Upwelling brings nutrients to the mixed layer, increasing plankton productivity and creates higher levels of chlorophyll a.

    Wrong: Sediment organic content affects densities of macrofauna and caused meiofauna to decrease in abundance.


35. The word "dominate" sometimes is misused when "dominant" should be.


    Right: Harpacticoid copepods were the dominant group in the sediments at this site.

    Right: Dinoflagellates are known to dominate phytoplankton assemblages in the summer.

    Wrong: The dominate species of phytoplankton determine the composition of zooplankton communities.


36. It's usually not appropriate to anthropomorphize non-human entities.


    Right: The chlorophyll a maximum at this site was below the pycnocline.

    Right: The zooplankton community at station 3 was dominated by heterotrophic dinoflagellates.

    Wrong: Deposit feeders who can forage efficiently are favored in a depositional environment.

    Wrong: The near-shore site had its chlorophyll a maximum near the thermocline.

    Wrong: CTD casts collected data at three locations off the coast of San Diego.

    Wrong: Bottom loving, nutrient rich cold waters are brought into the Southern California Bight by the Davidson Current.


37. Try to avoid mismatches of terms that refer to time, space, distance, etc.


    Right: Foraminiferans dominated the benthic community at Sta. 1, where organic content was high.

    Right: Dinoflagellates were most abundant in January 1998, when a strong El Niño event was in progress.

    Right: The chlorophyll a maximum was shallower than the pycnocline and 3 m deeper than the turbidity maximum.

    Right: Nematodes were observed below the depth at which sediment color changed from olive green to brown.

    Wrong: This relationship was apparent in 1998, where the surface temperatures were high.

    Wrong: Polychaete species A was the dominant macrofaunal species after the upper section of the core.

    Wrong: At 10-15 m before the sediment-water interface, the oxygen content was ~5 mg/L.


38. Proper nouns should be capitalized; common nouns should not.


    Right: The pycnocline was shallower at Sta. 2 than at Sta. 1 or Sta. 3.

    Right: The California Current has a strong influence on primary production within the Southern California Bight.

    Wrong: Nitrate concentration differed substantially between 1997 and 1998 for both Stations.

    Wrong: The Davidson current carries water northward below the surface in the southern California Bight.


39. A semicolon (;) generally is used between independent clauses not joined by a conjunction.  A semicolon also can be used to separate items in a series containing internal punctuation.  A colon (:) is used to separate a statement from information that clarifies or exemplifies the statement.  These two types of punctuation are not interchangeable.


    Right: Dissolved oxygen was measured at all three sites; no distinct trend was apparent.

    Right: The samples with the highest densities of polychaetes were Station 1, core 2; Station 2, core 2; and Station 3, core 1.

    Right: Beach macrofauna are affected primarily by three factors: wave action, sediment grain size, and organic content.

    Wrong: Sediment organic content is determined by several processes; current speed, grain size, and local productivity.


40. The word "attribute" sometimes is confused with "contribute".  As a verb, "attribute" means "to consider as caused by something", "to consider as a quality or characteristic", or "to consider as originating from the person/period/place/time indicated".  As a verb, "contribute" means "to give", "to help to cause", or "to be an important factor in".


    Right: The temperature difference between Stations 1 and 2 may have contributed to the observed difference in productivity.

    Right: Variation in community composition between summer and winter may be attributed to seasonal differences in rainfall.

    Wrong: Thin shells were known to attribute to high rates of breakage in ospreys with high levels of DDT in their diets.


41. The word "attain" sometimes is confused with "obtain".  The verb "attain" means "to achieve or accomplish".  The verb "obtain" means "to acquire or procure".


    Right: Anemones use their nematocysts to obtain food.

    Right: After considerable effort, the goal of an "A" in Biological Oceanography finally was attained.

    Wrong: Hermit crabs sometimes attain shells by forcing smaller or weaker crabs from their shells.


42. Try to select the appropriate word to convey what you mean, but don't try too hard to impress the reader and make sure that the words you choose mean what you think they mean.  Here are some examples of words and sentences that were excessively florid or did not convey the authors' intended meaning.


    Salinity affects the density levels along with the effects already inflicted due to the temperature.

    These differences are small though, and overall the difference would be negligent.

    Phytoplankton are an essential aspect of life in the oceans and on land.

    Organisms lower in the sediments have to implore a different way of living than aerobic respiration.

    The compiled plankton identities and quantifications were analyzed for diversity, richness, and evenness.


43. Simple, direct language will convey a message more clearly and cleanly than a more convoluted sentence.


    Wrong: At each site it could be observed that there was a relationship between sediment grain size and macrofaunal abundance.

    Right: A relationship between sediment grain size and macrofaunal abundance was observed at each site.

    Wrong: It is known that in many areas a subsurface chlorophyll maximum may be associated with the pycnocline.

    Right: In many areas a subsurface chlorophyll maximum may be associated with the pycnocline.

    Wrong: Within the study performed it was detected that there were higher densities of phytoplankton than of zooplankton at two of the three stations.

    Right: Higher densities of phytoplankton than zooplankton were observed at two of the three stations.





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Last modified 28 Nov 2007 by Ron Kaufmann