Status: Wait List

The Living Ocean

Spring 2024
Thursday Morning
Moderators: Martha Hanner, Dottie Rosenthal



The purpose of this seminar is to explore the amazing variety of life forms and adaptations among the creatures of the sea, from abalone to zebra fish.


Oceans cover 75% of Earth’s surface and, with their depth, comprise 95% of living space on Planet Earth. Life thrived in the oceans long before the land was colonized. Indeed, life may have initially developed around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. From tidal pools and coral reefs to the black depths, colonies of living species have adapted within the extreme range of physical environments—light, temperature, pressure, chemistry— in remarkable ways. Evolution has taken many paths, from tiny seahorses to the complex social behavior of whales and dolphins. Today, life in the oceans is under threat from climate change and human-caused pollution. Concerted efforts will be needed to counter these impacts.

ROLE OF PARTICIPANTS: Each participant will select a species or a category of sea life to make a 30–40 minute presentation, followed by a discussion. Participants can choose from a list of topics provided by the moderators or propose their own topics. All members will participate actively in the discussions.

There are many books, articles, and online resources, such as PBS documentaries, the New England Aquarium website, and the Cousteau Society website. Moderators will suggest various books and articles, including The World Beneath (Richard Smith, 2019) and Creatures of the Deep (Erich Hoyt, 2021).

ABOUT THE MODERATOR: Martha Hanner is a planetary astronomer who worked on NASA missions to the planets at CalTech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After retiring to Amherst, she taught honors courses on planetary exploration at UMass. Dottie Rosenthal is a biologist whose first interest in science was astronomy. A 20-year FCLIR member, she has moderated or co-moderated many seminars in biology. Dottie and Martha have co-moderated seminars on Mars, the Solar System, and Alien Life.