Marine Zoology: Vertebrates

Marine Zoology: Vertebrates


About this course


This is Part 4 of a 4 part marine zoology series. To take this course, you must successfully complete Marine Biology 101.

Recommended Ages: 10-17

Levels: Class is offered in 2 levels

Start Date: This course is not currently open for enrollment. Class consists of 12 lesson plans. Students have 2 weeks after the last lesson is posted to complete the course. No live classes- do the lesson plans on YOUR schedule.

Price: $240

Space Available: This course is not currently open for enrollment. Please join our mailing list to be notified when it is open again.

If you have a student aged 10-17 that has an interest in marine biology, this is the class you want! My degree is in Marine Biology (from Texas A&M University at Galveston), and marine biology was the very first homeschool class I ever taught. I have since branched out into many other sciences, but always love it when I can teach my passion- ocean life! This will not be a “fluff” class, or an “overview”- it is an intensive, science heavy class where students will learn marine biology from many different aspects- taxonomy, evolutionary relationships, anatomy, function, habitat, etc… There will be dissections in this course. Students can watch me do the dissection online, and I will even give you instructions for obtaining specimens so they can follow along with their own dissection if they’d like! Students who don’t wish to participate in viewing the dissections may opt out.

In this session, students will be focusing on 5 major groups of marine vertebrates:

1. Cartilaginous Fish: No bones about it, cartilaginous fish are super cool! We’ll start with the super weird jawless fish, lampreys! Kids are always simultaneously fascinated and grossed out by this weird group! We’ll even get hands on with a dissection. Then, move into learning what makes skates different from stingrays, and do another dissection. Then, finish up with everyone’s favorite- SHARKS! We’ll explore them from every scientific aspect- evolution, taxonomy, anatomy, habitat, adaptations, conservation issues, and more! And…another dissection!

2. Bony Fish: Did you know that bony fish are the largest vertebrate group on earth? The variety of adaptations are amazing, and we’ll spend a few weeks learning all about them. Did you know that clownfish can change from being a male to a female and back again? How about the fact that cute little pufferfish contain a toxin 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide? Those are just a few of the interesting facts we’ll cover. And of course, a dissection!

3. Reptiles: Reptiles aren’t just on land! We’ll cover sea turtles, sea snakes, and the marine iguana (which is only found in the Galapagos!). There will be an awesome project that will track sea turtles on their migratory paths across the globe. We’ll learn what causes a baby sea turtle to become a male or female (hint: temperature!). Did you know that female sea turtles return to the beach they were born to lay their eggs, and that male sea turtles never leave the ocean? We’ll focus on all 7 species of sea turtle, and discuss the conservation issues surrounding them.

4. Birds: Did you know that a sea bird has the longest migration of any animal on earth? And it’s a sea bird that has the longest wingspan of any bird on earth? From seagulls to albatross, penguins to puffins, we’ll cover these often overlooked group of marine animals!

5. Marine Mammals: What’s the difference between a whale and a dolphin? What about a seal and a sea lion? Did you know the closest living relative to the whales are HIPPOPOTAMUS’?! We’ll cover these and many other fascinating topics as we work our way through the world of marine mammals! Manatees, sea otters, polar bears, seals, sea lions, walruses, dolphins, whales…WHEW! After studying their intelligence and emotional capabilities, we’ll then launch into a discussion on the pros and cons of keeping these animals in captivity.

I will be creating educational videos to accompany the course- many of these will be on site at various areas around southern California, both at the ocean and in some of our local aquariums. I’ll also be conducting virtual labs for the students, including dissections. Each week, there will be a choice of hands on projects for students to complete to reinforce their knowledge of the material.

This is an academically advanced class. Younger students 10-12 should usually be placed in Level 1. Students age 13 and up, or younger students who want more of a challenge, should be placed in Level 2. Level 2 students will have more in depth homework.

LESSON PLANS: This is a 12 week class. Students have 2 weeks after the last class is posted to complete all work. Weekly lesson plans are posted on Tuesdays by 5pm Pacific Time. There is no “live” component to this class, which allows students to work at their own pace. This is a great option for busy students who need to work on their own schedule, and students who live all over the world and can’t easily coordinate time zones.

Lesson plans are a combination of power point, graphics, video, and audio. Each slide is fully narrated for students who prefer to hear material read to them. There is no textbook for this course.

DISCUSSION:We offer an “open talk” forum where students can discuss their lessons and have fun getting to know their classmates!

ASSIGNMENTS: Material is the same for both levels, it’s the depth of the assignments that is the main difference. Most weeks, students get to choose from a list of exciting and fun hands on projects to let them really dig deep into topics in the lesson plan that interest them the most! The goal is to allow students to explore the topic while allowing their creativity to flow. We encourage out of the box thinking! Generally projects can be submitted in any format of the student’s choosing…written, presentation, poster, stop motion animation, minecraft, song, skit…we’ve seen it all!! Check out our facebook page for examples of student projects. All students receive instructor feedback on submitted work.

QUIZZES: Online quizzes are available each week as a tool for students to see how well they understand the material. Format is generally multiple choice, matching, true/false, and fill in the blank.

GRADES: All quizzes, labs, and online assessments automatically receive a grade in the system. You have the option of having your student’s individual projects graded or not (all assignments receive instructor feedback). Report cards are issued at the end of the course- one for ungraded students and one for graded students. These mean nothing other than for your own records or reporting purposes. We do not maintain copies.

TIME: In general, expect 1-1.5 hours to work through the lesson plan each week, and an additional 2-5 hours working on assignments (it really depends what assignment your child chooses to do and how they manage their time).


We do dissections throughout this class. If you would like to order your own specimen to follow along with me in the dissection video, there is a list of sources below. If you live outside of the United States, you need to call and see if they will ship to you. If not, you may be able to find a biological supply company in your area. You need to order your specimens as soon as you enroll to insure they are here before class starts. When your animals arrive, store them in a dark, cool place. Do NOT freeze or refrigerate preserved specimens. You can order a dissection kit if you want, but really all you need is a pair of googles, gloves, sharp scissors (easier to use than a scalpel), and some kind of a probe (toothpicks work well for this).

Note: If you also plan on taking Marine Zoology: Invertebrates Part 1 and Marine Zoology: Vertebrates, also check the material lists for those classes. If you order everything together, you can save on shipping. 🙂


If a link is provided, it is to show you the type of animal you need to order. Below is a list of sources where you can purchase specimens
Fish (or you can buy a whole fresh fish from your local seafood market)


I do not personally endorse any of these companies, nor do I receive any kind of compensation for listing them. I suggest you research the individual companies before purchasing. There are also other companies that sell preserved specimens. When given a choice of types, choose plain preserved (you don’t need injected ones).


Our course begins with the first step for generating great user experiences: understanding what people do, think, say, and feel. In this module, you’ll learn how to keep an open mind while learning.

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