Course requirements - (canvas.brown.edu).
GEOL 2920 B: Ocean Worlds
Meeting times: TBD
Instructor: Brandon Johnson
Office: LF 303
Office hours: TBD
Email: [email protected]
The goal of this course is to introduce students to the ocean worlds of the Solar System (excluding
Earth). We will focus on the physical processes that shape the exteriors and interiors of these
bodies. We will discuss the various geophysical and remote sensing observations that allow us to
determine that oceans underlie the outer icy shells of these bodies. The class will also discuss the
possible habitability of these bodies and how we can better constrain the thermo-mechanical
state of their interiors.
Although a background in geophysics and planetary surface processes is desirable, the course is
open to all graduate students. With instructor approval, the course is open to upper level
undergraduates who have an appropriate background in geophysics and/or planetary surface
There is no official textbook for this course but each week students will read relevant literature
including a mix of recent work and reviews. Supplemental readings from Planetary Surface
Processes (Melosh, 2011) and Geodynamics (Tucotte and Schubert, 2002) will be recommended
for those with limited background in geophysics and surface processes.
Term project and paper with presentation
Presentation of papers in seminar format and leading discussion
Paper presentations and discussion leadership
The final paper is a short paper (4-8 page double spaced with 12 point font, figures and
references not included in this limit) on a relevant topic of interest to the student. Students are
expected to attempt to address a problem of interest going beyond a simple review by doing
some of their own analysis. Although likely the most straight forward choice, the final paper does
not need to relate to the topics for which the students acted as discussion leaders.
Pre paper - A one-two page (double spaced) proposal for the final project (due week 7)
The final presentation is a short 10 min presentation of the work done for the final paper. After
the presentation students will answer questions from the class.
Paper presentations and discussion leadership – Students will choose one of the weekly topics
as primary (75% of grade) and one as secondary discussion leader (25% of grade). Roughly half
the time will be spent presenting material covered in the readings as well as relevant background
material. This could also include presentation of material from more recent work and/or
potentially conflicting hypotheses. In the remaining class time, the discussion leads are expected
to guide the discussion in a structured way using their own and submitted questions.
The primary leader is responsible for presentation and leading the discussion along with the
secondary. The secondary should meet with the primary and help them develop their
presentation and discussion questions.
I am "grading" the presentations for which you are the discussion leader on a 1/2/3 system
3. All important material in paper is covered and clearly explained. Background material from
other sources and/or relevant concepts are discussed (if necessary or useful). Discussion
leader provides some creative/critical analysis (e.g., extrapolation to the next step;
comparison to other studies we have discussed).
2. Most important material in paper is covered. Some discussion of background material is
1. Discussion of important material is flawed or incomplete. Presentation reveals gaps in
understanding that could have been easily been clarified by consulting other sources.
(Note that I'm trying to differentiate here between gaps in understanding that are easily
addressed-- for example, I don't understand what this figure is showing or I don't know what this
technical term means-- and gaps in understanding that should be part of the in-class discussion.
I realize it's a gray zone and not black and white, but I'm trying to provide some very general
guidelines for how quality can be evaluated.)
Participation – Full marks in participation are achieved by actively contributing to discussion
including submitting at least one thoughtful question about each assigned paper. These
questions should be submitted to the instructor, primary, and secondary discussion leaders the
night before class via email.
To each question/comment you submit prior to each class meeting, I assign a "grade" of 1/2/3,
using the following guidelines. I then determine the average of the N questions you submitted,
and that is your grade for that particular assignment. Note that these guidelines are meant to
communicate the spirit of my grading system but are not all-encompassing descriptions of the
3. These are truly scientific questions. For example, they might probe how we could test a
particular result. Or they might try to place findings from this paper in the context of
results we've discussed from previous papers.
2. These questions seek to clarify a (potentially confusing) point or concept that cannot be easily
answered by consulting other sources.
1. These questions can be easily addressed by consulting other sources.
Course-Related Work Expectations
Over 14 weeks, students will spend 3 hours per week in class (42 hours total). Required reading
for the seminar meetings is expected to take up approximately 6 hours per week (84 hours). In
addition, preparation for leading class discussions and the final paper are estimated to total
approximately 60 hours over the course of the term.
Week by week outline
1 - Overview and introduction (1/26, 1/31)
2 - Interiors (Differentiation - Galilean Satellites) (2/2, 2/7)
[Hussmann et al., 2015; McKinnon 1997]
3 – Evidence for oceans (2/9, 2/14)
[Nimmo et al., 2016 (section 4); Khurana et al., 1998; Thomas et al., 2016]
4 – Enceladus - Tiger stripes – plumes – SPT (2/16, 2/23) – no classes 2/21
[Porco et al. 2006; Potsberg et al. 2011; Hedman et al. 2013]
5 - Europa– Tectonics – Tidal heating and ice shell thickness (2/28, 3/2)
[Hoppa et al., 1999; Schenk et al., 2008; Nimmo and Manga, 2009]
6 - Europa - Chaos terrain -Pits and domes (3/7, 3/9)
[Schmidt et al., 2011; Michaut and Manga, 2014; Pappalardo et al., 1998]
7 - Plate tectonics – Craters (Pre paper due) (3/14, 2/16)
[Kattenhorn and Prockter, 2014; Schenk, 2002; Cox and Bauer, 2015]
8 – LPSC (3/20-3/24)
In lieu of class, attend at least 2 talks regarding some aspect of ocean worlds and write a 2-3
page (double spaced) paper about the talks you attended. If not attending LPSC then read a
paper that is less than a year old regarding ocean worlds and write a 2-3 page (double spaced)
paper summarizing and discussing the paper (the paper you read should not be in the assigned
Spring Recess (3/27-3/31)
9 - Titan - Ocean world? (4/4, 4/6)
[Lorenz et al. 2008; Stofan et al. 2007; Tomasko et al. 2005]
10 – Habitability (4/11, 4/13)
[Chyba and Phillips, 2001; Gaidos and Nimmo, 2000; Gaidos et al. 1999; Lacanzo and Hand
11 – Is Ceres an ocean world? (4/18, 4/20)
[Ruesch et al. 2016; Bland et al. 2016; Marchi et al. 2016]
12 - Is Pluto an ocean world? (4/25, 4/27)
[Moore et al., 2016; Nimmo et al., 2016; Keane et al., 2016]
13 –Presentations (5/2, 5/4) (Reading week)