Courses developed and taught by Dr. Adina Paytan at UC Santa Cruz:

Application of Isotopes in Geological and Environmental Research (OCEA 290A)

This is a combined lecture and seminar course given for 5 units. The class is offered to graduate students in the ocean, earth, biology and environmental sciences. The main topic of this class is learning about various applications of different isotope systems in geological, oceanographic, biological and environmental studies at low temperature. The use of isotopes as tracers for weathering rate, biogeochemical cycling, food-web structure, ecology, paleo-chemistry, archeology, provenance, circulation, anthropogenic and extraterrestrial inputs and more. We will cover a broad array of elements including: C, O, N, Si, S, Sr, Nd, Ra, Os, B, Li, Pb, Ca, Mg, Se, Mo and Fe. Emphasis will be given to developing skills for critically reading and discussing of scientific papers, preparing oral presentations, conducting literature searches, manuscript reviews, and proposal preparation.

Ocean Redox Chemistry Present and Past (OCEA 290A)

This class covers the principals of oxidation-reduction reactions, discuss distribution of redox sensitive elements in the oceanic water column and sediments, the impact on biology and the proxies for reconstruction past changes in oceanic redox state. The class will be a combination of lectures and reading and discussion of current literature.

Ocean Acidification (OCEA 290A)

This course covers topics including the fundamentals of CO2/HCO3-/CO32- chemistry in seawater, the role of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in ocean acidification, and ocean pH (natural and anthropogenic forcing). Additional topics include impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms, primary production, biogeochemical cycles, past analogs for ocean acidification, field and lab procedures for ocean acidification research, and policy issues.

Communicating Science (EART 240)

This course is for students interested in improving their ability to communicate their scientific knowledge by teaching science in local schools. The course will combine instruction in inquiry-based science teaching methods with six weeks of supervised teaching in a local elementary school classroom. Students will practice communicating scientific knowledge, and receive mentoring on how to improve their presentations.

Environmental Geology (EART 20)

This course is for students interested in getting to know the physical environment we live in and the mutual interactions between us and the environment around us. The course will cover some basic aspects about the Earth system including earth materials and processes, impact of natural Earth processes on humans and human perturbations of the natural system. The class will include lectures, labs, students presentations, guest speakers and a field trip.

Courses developed and taught by Dr. Adina Paytan at Stanford University:

The Ocean Around Us: Stanford Introductory Seminar

The geology, chemistry, physics, and biology of the oceans, and human interactions with them. Four half-day field trips examine the oceanic environments of the Bay Area.

How to Critically Read and Discuss Scientific Literature

The ability to read and evaluate scientific primary literature is crucial for success in undergraduate or graduate school, or in the scientific work force. Topics: how to approach the reading of scientific articles, and how to understand and critically evaluate the information contained in them through guided and instructed reading and a review of such papers.

Marine Chemistry

The oceans are in interactive contact with the atmosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere, and virtually all elements pass through the ocean. First-order processes that take place within the sea and affect its chemistry. What controls the distribution of chemical species in water and sediments? How long do elements spend in the ocean? How do marine chemical processes interact with ocean biological, geological, and physical processes?

Communicating Ocean Science

For undergraduates and graduate students interested in teaching science in local schools. Inquiry-based science teaching methods. How to communicate scientific knowledge and improve presentations. Six weeks of supervised teaching in a local school classroom.


For upper-division undergraduates and graduate students. How can we learn about the chemistry, circulation, biology, and geology of past oceans and why is this of interest? Evidence for substantial changes in Earth’s climate and surficial environment in the sedimentary record. Fundamentals of gathering and interpreting this information in the context of how earth processes functioned in the past and their relevance for the future habitability of Earth.

Application of Isotopes to Geological and Environmental Research

The applications of different isotopic systems in geological, oceanographic and environmental studies at low temperature. The use of isotopes as tracers for weathering rate, biogeochemical cycling, food-web structures, ecology, paleo-chemistry, provenance, circulation, anthropogenic and extraterrestrial inputs, etc. Isotopic systems: S, Sr, Nd, Ra, Os, B, Th, Pb, Ca, Se, Si, He, Be, and Fe. Emphasis is on developing skills in reading and evaluation of scientific papers, preparing oral presentations, conducting literature searches, manuscript reviews, and proposal preparation.

Environmental Isotope Hydrology and Biogeochemistry

This course focuses on practical applications of environmental isotopes for gaining a better understanding of hydrologic and biogeochemical systems. Because a thorough understanding of the fundamentals is a critical prerequisite to successfully applying isotope techniques, the systematics of isotope fractionation and the distribution of selected isotopes in natural systems will be discussed briefly. However, the main focus of the class will be on practical applications of isotopes for tracing waters, solutes, water rock interaction, and biogeochemical reactions in hydrologic systems. We will cover a wide variety of isotope systems (including: O, H, C, N, S, Cl, Sr, B, Ca, Li, Fe, Cr, Se), hydrological topics (including: tracing sources of groundwater and surface water, isotope hydrograph separations, recharge rate, and ground-water dating) and biogeochemical topics (including: nutrient sources and cycling, sources of contaminants, biogeochemical reaction mechanisms, and food web studies)

The Glacial World

In this course we investigate the dramatic environmental changes that took place on Earth between the last glacial maximum (LGM) and the present day. Our primary focus will be on the cause of the low atmospheric CO2 concentrations that were characteristic of the LGM and what conditions existed at that time that might explain these reduced CO2 levels. In doing so, we will review and discuss relevant literature from a variety of disciplines that illustrate, for example, how changes in sea level, marine primary production, ocean circulation, and elemental cycling may have contributed to past global changes.