American Museum of Natural History

Marine Biology

Taught in English

Some content may not be translated

14,383 already enrolled


Gain insight into a topic and learn the fundamentals

John Sparks

Instructor: John Sparks


(220 reviews)

Beginner level
No prior experience required
6 hours to complete
3 weeks at 2 hours a week
Flexible schedule
Learn at your own pace

Details to know

Shareable certificate

Add to your LinkedIn profile


5 quizzes

See how employees at top companies are mastering in-demand skills


Earn a career certificate

Add this credential to your LinkedIn profile, resume, or CV

Share it on social media and in your performance review


There are 5 modules in this course

Did life on Earth begin in the ocean? How diverse are marine organisms, compared to those on land? What are the forces that shaped their evolution, and what threats do they face? We begin our course by investigating questions whose answers are far less straightforward than you might think. Here we will meet our course authors and look through a porthole onto their scientific research. We will learn how destructive fishing techniques are affecting the ecosystems of squid species and how biofluorescence and bioluminescence help mysterious deep-sea creatures survive and reproduce.

What's included

4 videos3 readings1 quiz

Just as life on land depends on the air we breathe, life in the ocean depends on water. What are the properties of seawater, and how are they important to life? This week we will examine seawater’s chemical and physical characteristics—things like temperature, salinity, acidity, pressure, and the transmission of sunlight—that profoundly affect the organisms living in it. We’ll study how water moves through the ocean and beyond, in a great global cycle that includes internal motion like tides and currents, but also processes like evaporation, precipitation, and wind, which take place outside the ocean. Then we will look at how organisms take advantage of all this motion. How do the water’s properties allow marine life to find food, escape from predators, meet mates, and spread their offspring? Finally, we will a visit with a bioengineer who designs her own equipment to create pulsing images of a previously little-studied organism, a gelatinous filter-feeder that’s enormously important in its ecosystem.

What's included

2 videos4 readings1 quiz

This week we will examine another aspect of motion underwater: how matter and energy move through marine ecosystems, from the photosynthetic organisms that capture sunlight at the base of the food pyramid to the huge predators at the top, as well as the organisms that cycle waste and dead creatures back into the system. What lives where, and why? How do the movement of matter and energy affect the patterns of life in the ocean?We will take a closer look at principles of ecology and how they apply in marine environments. How do species interact within a community? How do they help and harm one another, and how do their interactions drive their evolution? In a case study, we will visit a marine scientist who studies dolphins that herd their prey and find out about the daily migrations those prey species make between deep and shallow waters.

What's included

3 videos3 readings1 quiz

Blue whales are the largest animals that ever lived and have among the longest migrations of any mammalian species. Their massive body size and range bring with them a unique set of challenges. How do blue whales get enough energy feasting on just tiny krill? A group of scientists, including biologist Jeremy Goldbogen at Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University, has revolutionized the study of whale behavior by developing and deploying multi-sensor tags on whales. The scientists look for patterns in their data in order to understand what whales are doing during their deep dives, and what this behavior reveals about the ecosystems the whales inhabit.

What's included

4 videos4 readings1 quiz

The threats to ocean life are numerous and dire, but they are not foretold. For example, “super corals” appear to be resistant to warming waters and scientists are successfully replanting samples in vulnerable reefs. This week we investigate the relationship between humans and the ocean: the services the oceans provide, how those services are threatened by human activity, and what might be done to mitigate these threats. We also look at a number of other scientists who are working from many disciplines on conservation strategies.

What's included

4 videos3 readings1 quiz


Instructor ratings
4.9 (81 ratings)
John Sparks
American Museum of Natural History
1 Course14,383 learners

Offered by

Recommended if you're interested in Environmental Science and Sustainability

Why people choose Coursera for their career

Felipe M.
Learner since 2018
"To be able to take courses at my own pace and rhythm has been an amazing experience. I can learn whenever it fits my schedule and mood."
Jennifer J.
Learner since 2020
"I directly applied the concepts and skills I learned from my courses to an exciting new project at work."
Larry W.
Learner since 2021
"When I need courses on topics that my university doesn't offer, Coursera is one of the best places to go."
Chaitanya A.
"Learning isn't just about being better at your job: it's so much more than that. Coursera allows me to learn without limits."

Learner reviews

Showing 3 of 220


220 reviews

  • 5 stars


  • 4 stars


  • 3 stars


  • 2 stars


  • 1 star



Reviewed on Jul 7, 2024


Reviewed on Jun 12, 2024


Reviewed on Oct 29, 2023


Open new doors with Coursera Plus

Unlimited access to 7,000+ world-class courses, hands-on projects, and job-ready certificate programs - all included in your subscription

Advance your career with an online degree

Earn a degree from world-class universities - 100% online

Join over 3,400 global companies that choose Coursera for Business

Upskill your employees to excel in the digital economy

Frequently asked questions