Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Students in Oceanography class, which is taken by high school juniors and seniors, were assigned a research topic with presentation for their final assignment. Presentations, given by the students during their final exam period, were a wonderful wrap-up to oceanography and segue to marine biology next semester. Their presentations also provided a means for covering a lot of ocean resource topics in a short time period, as each student was assigned a different resource, but all with the same essential question:


The assignment

Big Idea: The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. The oceans are a connected system of water in motion that transports matter and energy around Earth’s surface.

Assignment:  In the role of a marine scientist, you will research a marine resource and present an argument for a position related to use of that resource, supporting your position with scientifically valid evidence.

Product:  On the day of the final exam you will (1) turn in a 3- to 5- page paper, and (2) give a five- to ten-minute oral presentation, with video support, of your research results.


Commercial Fisshing slide by Jesse

Marine Resource Topics:

To make sure that each student had a separate research topic, I printed the following list in large font and spread them out on the table for students to choose from. Sometimes I assign by putting the topics in a “hat” and students choose blindly, but this is typically followed by a lot of negotiations for swapping; the way I did it this time still had negotiations, but between only those that were quickest with the grab rather than everyone. No perfect way to do this because everyone wants coral reefs.

  • Petroleum and natural gas
  • Marine sand and gravel
  • Magnesium and magnesium compounds
  • Salt
  • Manganese Nodules
  • Phosphorite Deposits
  • Metallic Sulfides
  • Fresh Water from the Ocean
  • Methane hydrates
  • Offshore wind energy
  • Energy from waves and currents
  • Energy from ocean vertical thermal gradient
  • Coastline protection
  • Coral Reefs
  • Medicine and drugs
  • Crustaceans and molluscs
  • Commercial fishing practices
  • Aquaculture
  • Whaling
  • Managing biological resources

Students were encouraged to narrow down their topics to make them more manageable. For example, “Aquaculture” could be narrowed down to shrimp farming.

To make the assignment clear to the students, I broke the description into two pages: the paper and the presentation.

Research Guidelines:


Wave Energy by Jacob

1.Required Length: 1000 words (approximately three pages of text), not including references and not including quoted material.

2.  Required references: a minimum of five relevant scientific articles and/or internet sites related to the topic. This is the minimum amount of reference material — you may need more to do an adequate job of researching your topic.

3.  Things to focus on in your research:

  • define the problem – what part of the world’s ocean does it affect?
  • how did the problem come about? How is the problem being made worse by humans/is it being made worse by humans? What are the various causes of the problem?
  • what are some possible solutions to the problem? Are any of the feasible?  How will we implement some of these solutions?
  • what is the importance or significance of the topic?
  • what methods have scientists used to investigate the topic?
  • what kinds of information and data have scientists found?
  • what major results and conclusions have scientists made, based on the above?

4.  Format of the paper:

  • Lead off with a separate title page, containing: title, your name, course name, school name, date
  • Body of at least three pages of text (~1,000 words):
  • Begin the body with an introduction: a section (one or two paragraphs) that clearly states the purpose of the paper and reviews the main points that the paper will cover
  • Break up the paper into logic sections using subheadings to identify the subject of the different sections
  • End the paper with a conclusion (one or two paragraphs) that wraps up and summarizes in specific ways the main points of the paper
  • Spell-check and grammar-check! (sloppy spelling errors and poor grammar will result in a poor grade)
  • A page (or more) of references per MLA guidelines

5.  Submitting your paper: Submit your paper in electronic format, preferably in Microsoft Word or Google doc.

6.  Plagiarism: Don’t. Just don’t. You know better.


Background and Reflective Thoughts

Our school only teaches MLA formatting. With my 18-year background of  writing engineering documents, I find it frustrating to constantly be getting english-style essays rather than scientific documents. Starting next year, I plan on teaching my students APA formatting, and directing students to understand the difference between technical writing and english-essay writing.

The word length is only 1000 words because I wanted the students focussed on finding good resources and highlighting the issues, rather than being focussed on “getting the right number of words”. In meeting the research requirements most students were concerned that they had gone too far over the minimum.

Our librarian has stacks of research record templates in different colors for students to use to document their research, with teachers assigning a different color for the type of resources, e.g., blue for a book, green for technical article, etc.. Our librarian has, for her entire career here, been proactive in helping students to learn the difference between “good” and “bad” resources, to understand what paraphrasing is and isn’t, and to use databases beyond the internet. She teaches all freshmen how to research a topic and has written a research guide for students.

  • A coral reef is the rainforest of the ocean with all its diversity.” – Sam

Presentation Guidelines:

You may use the board, posters, handouts, or a PowerPoint presentation to help provide visual aids. Following your presentation, there will be time for a few questions. You should know your topic well enough to answer all reasonable questions on the topic. Grades will be based on both what you present and how well you know the information.

If you just read a few paragraphs directly from a sheet of paper or from your slides and cannot answer basic questions on your topic without your notes, you should not expect a passing grade on the presentation.

You have studied many physical aspects of the ocean. Include a detailed discussion of at least one of these in your paper and presentation. They include:

  • Understand and describe some important properties of water: Before we can understand the numerous and amazing ways the oceans impact our lives on land, we need to understand some special qualities of water. Properties such as surface tension, capillary action and solvency make water one of the most unique substances on Earth.
  • Explain how waves form and shape the coastline. Understanding conditions on the shore will help us understand some ocean habitats.
  • Describe the differences between wave and current formation and qualities.
  • Explain how ocean currents influence climate on land.
  • Describe and identify ocean floor features Understanding the shape of the ocean floor will help us understand ocean habitats.
  • Analyze different ocean zones of life and categorize organisms that live in each.

Background and Reflective Thoughts

I enjoyed the student presentations and really wish I had thought to video tape them.  To make sure that students were paying attention to other presentations, they were given a sheet of paper to record thoughts and impressions, and this paper was collected:


I was inspired by many of the presentations and it gave me the idea that, in my mixed CP/Honors Marine Biology class next semester, the honors students (who will have work in addition to the rest of the class) should give presentations to the CP students.

A couple of closing thoughts from the students:

  • Fishing to extinction of species is evolution going in the wrong direction.” – Josh

  • You never think about not having earth’s resources until you do not have them anymore, but by then it is too late. Everyone must be mindful of Earth’s natural resources because so we do not find out one day that they’re all gone. ” – Kelsey

Amen to that.

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Temperature Changes in the Ocean

I liked that the field trip was interactive, which helped me learn better. When tide-pooling, I learned a lot about how the temperature of the water changed from Mr. Harty. I also learned this information from the lady inside of Ordione. I learned that the reason the ocean temperature changes is because of the variation of the sun. For example, in the winter time when the sun is in the Northern Hemisphere, the energy input is greatly reduce, therefore lowering the temperatures. The average temperature of the ocean surface waters is about 62.6 degrees. In addition to the temperature of the air, the local currents and wind also affect the ocean temperature. The surface water temperatures obviously change from season to season and year to year change, but the ocean as a whole has increased .1 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years. This change is actually extremely significant, although it is one .1 degrees. It shows that the ocean is warming and this could be alarming and concerning.


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Traveling to Odiorne was such an eye-opening experience to the oceanic world. Pushing our nautical knowns we explored the reservatiion and examined different sea-species whether they were a plant, fish, or another creature. One of my favorite things I learned about were the changes of water tempatures of the ocean water we swim in. We learned that we are not swimming in the Atlantic Ocean when we go to the beach, but more specifically The Gulf of Maine. I now know when the best times to make a plunge into the oceanic water and when to not, as the best times are obviously in the summer, but the fall isn’t that bad either! I thought the spring would carry in warmer water than the fall but I was proved wrong. Also I enjoyed accepting knowledge about lobsters as we found a small one. Lobsters travel backwards and don’t use their legs as much as I thought they would, and now I know I’ll be thinking about it when I’m eating my next lobby.

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While in Monterey California I had time to check out the Monterey aquarium and it was very impressive.


After our class long distance field trip to Mystic, CT  last month for their aquarium, I was glad to still be interested in the exhibits this time around. It’s safe to say the Monterey CA aquarium was much larger, with more to see and also more to do, but it was not better in every possible way.

It was very cool to be right on the water, and you could step outside onto the deck to check things out. Their were many huge tanks full of anything you could imagine, and countless smaller tanks with all the usual aquarium things, but also tons of unusual things. I saw many species I did not even know existed, like the strange seahorse pictured below.

Overall I am glad I spent the time at the aquarium. The only detail that could have made my visit better was if the  little kids weren’t sneaking around your legs to get to the front of the crowd.





Tufted Puffins





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At the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, I saw an abundant number of marine animals, all of which were very interesting to observe and to take pictures of. Many of the sea creatures provoked feelings and emotions from me. The animal that provoked the most response and the most feelings from me were the California Sea Lions. They intrigued me greatly, probably because they were the most captivating and entertaining to watch. they were giant and very amusing to watch.

The feelings that the California Sea Lions provoked from me were intense. The feelings that I experienced was the senses of calmness and relaxation, as they were swimming fastly but gracefully under the water, but as the came out onto the rocks and started speaking, I felt the intense feeling of amusement, awe and excitement.

I felt that we made a great decision to go to the Aquarium.  I liked the Auditorium and the outside exhibits most. They spaced out the exhibits perfectly. I would recommend schools to go there for field trips. One thing I would change about the whole experience was I would ask the Aquarium to get rid of the seagulls swarming around the eating area.

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After a very long bus ride to Connecticut, we arrived at the aquarium. We drove all the way to Mystic Connecticut from our school in northeast Massachusetts.

After walking around and checking everything out all day, we had learned a lot and seen tons of stuff. Thanks to the aquarium employees, who seamed to be talking your ear off every time you turned around, we learned about every single thing we saw.

After an hour of wandering around we found ourselves in the hard bench seats of the auditorium. There was a full audience and a deep pool set up where a stage might usually be. We watched a sea lion show in these seats and it was very impressive. Sea lions are very smart animals and they were probably the most impressive animal we saw all day. Besides the acribatic tricks they preformed, the trainers gave us tons of information on the animals. I thought it was very interesting to learn sea lions are actually pretty close to humans, and have many of the same traits. There are even some strangly close features such as the sea lions bones in what would be its arm and hand. The sea lion has several bones that make up five fingers. This is one of the many interesting parts to the sea lion that make them one of the smartest animals in the world. We watched the sea lions look a row of shapes and be able to find and choose the shape it was set out to find. I think most found the quick swimming and 8 feet of air they got when flying out of the air but the intelligence side to them is also interesting.

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October 14, 2011
Lately, if you’ve walked on any of the beaches in New England, you may have seen a few dead seals. The count of these harbor seals has been rising drastically since the first one was found in September, 2011. From Massachusetts to Maine, there have been 94 found on shore. Around the fall, there is usually a few dead seals found, but this year there has been a dramatic increase on deaths. One surfer at Jenness Beach said he saw a few seals floating, just waiting to wash up on shore. The cause of these deaths has not been found yet. Biologists are studying this closer. First they thought it may have been lack of food, which is the most common cause of death in young seals, but this is not the case. Researchers drew theories about the spike in deaths, maybe a virus or disease, but there is no known cause that has been discovered. Scientists from the New England Aquarium are running some test based on tissue and organ samples from some seals to try and determine the cause; the results will not be out for about another week. There was also a whale found on one of the beaches as well. Scientists struggle to find if the whale’s death is connected to all the harbor seals deaths. The only similarity with both the whale and the seals is that they have all been young. The whale also had no sign of trauma or entanglement. At Hampton Beach, there was a dead Bluefin tuna found on the beach. Maybe all these dead sea creatures have a common cause of death.
A marine mammal expert said that there has been no trouble anywhere else in the world with harbor seals, just in the Northeast, which seals are usually at its healthiest here. The population of harbor seals has grown in the past few years, so these deaths leave most experts puzzled. Impact on the seal population will not exist unless this trend continues.
In the past, seals deaths have been caused by the bird flu. When seals went to lie out on rocks, they would lie in bird drippings and catch this disease. Also the morbillivirus killed hundreds of seals (harbor and gray) back in 2006. The recent deaths have one common trend, the age. Young seals struggle to hunt for food, but this is not the case this time. Seals found have shown a significant amount of blubber meaning they were getting enough food. One scientist questioned if it could be a “natural, algae-based toxin” located in a particular part of the ocean.
Scientists have discussed that no one should touch the animals that wash up on the shoreline, or even if they are found dead in the water. Touching them, dead or alive, is considered a federal violation.


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Plum Island Adventures

Plum Island Adventures

On our field trip we went to Plum Island, and we saw certain glacial rocks that had been left behind near our school.  One of the glacial rocks that we saw is called Stickney’s boulder in Groveland MA. Then in Haverhill MA we visited this area where we saw certain rocks that have been left behind from centuries before.  Also in Haverhill MA we saw a rock that had striations which was from the glacier moving from north to south over the rock.

After we visited these certain rock areas we went to Plum Island where we studied the dunes and saw different effects that the ocean has on the beach.  We saw how the dunes were somewhat hilly showing how the wind blows the sand and forms new land masses.  Also from the dunes to the beach there was a sort of shelf that had different layers of sediment shown in it.  You could see the different colors in the sand and you could also see how there were different rocks shoved into the sand.  Also throughout the beach you could see there were darker areas in the sand showing where the high tide goes up to and how low the low tide is.

After looking at the different aspects of the beach we learned a lot about how the ocean affects the land.  You can see how the water can do major damage on some land but also see how different animals and plants need the ocean to survive.  We saw many birds that were taking things out of the ocean and we saw sea weed that had washed up on shore.  Some of the sea weed had holes in it showing that maybe an animal had eaten it.  Also on the shore there were different colors of sand, like purple and it is probably purple from the way the ocean brought it up from the ocean floor or maybe it is darker because of how the sun hits it.  We learned that there were many aspects of the ocean and not just sand and water.






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Plum Island Trash

Throughout the field trip to the Plum Island Reservation, the wide spans of beach, dunes, coastal vegatation. The end of the island, also known Sandy Point is a real change of pace compared to the other end of the island and the rest of Newburyport. For many years the press has been all over the fact that thebeach is eroding and how can someone fix this? Even though this is not good for Plum Island, this is a natural occuring event unlike the great amount of trash that has ended up on the beachfront that give us a barrier to the beutiful, massive, powerful ocean. From human thrown trash found on the beach to washed up trash, it causes a major concern for the fragile habitat.

Within the last year a major public concern is the distribution of the small plastic mesh circular disks from a water treament plant from the Merrimack River. E Coli and Entercoccus could be found in these disks. Young children were warned not to play with these disks because of the infection possible with exposure to these disks. When we were at Plum Island Reservation, the disks were scarce but were still visible if you looked carefully. This is just one present example of pollution that has occured in the area and directly affected the enviroment of Plum Island. Plum Island was affected because of the current flowing down the along the island, many pollutants and tras deposits end up on the shore of Plum Island.

Though the Island itself is still a major destination for tourists, homeowneers, birdwatchers and nature lovers, the Island is slowly showing the affects of human pollution and trash on the island. There has to be a change in regulation among beaches throuhgout the whole area. Through government agencies, the beach fronts can be cleaned up for human use and animal habitats.





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I had an idea prior to the biome project in biology class of how different parts of the Earth were from the others, but hearing from classmates on these major biomes was even more enlightening.  I was introduced to many biomes that were more unique than I had guessed.  The biomes also had some similarities with each other as well as differences.  Because I had a prior interest in marine life and ecosystems, the aquatic(especially salt water) biomes really captivated me.  The amazing range of life and unique biodiversity of oceans the world over are truly fascinating.  The fact that so many unique species can live together in one body of water is astounding.  The physical wonders of the ocean are also enthralling.  The enormous underwater mountain ranges, deep sea trenches, and desert-under-the-sea look is beautiful. 

It makes you sad to think that people are so careless about these delicate biomes and do truly stupid things like, say, drill in the Gulf of Mexico and accidentally have their oil rigs blow up, releasing millions of gallons into the water.  It’s hard to imagine the loss of life that will occur due to this BP oil spill.  Hopefully the people that care about the aquatic biomes of the planet will find a way to help.

-Nicole B.

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For the brochure I had to research Freshwater Biomes. It was really interesting because I was able to learn about all the different animals that live in the freshwater biomes like:  Turtles, frogs, some fish, crustaceans, snails, insects, and many others. I also learned about how valuable freshwater is to the world. Like how it supplies 90% of our drinking water, bath water, and irrigation for farmers.  Not only did I learn about the freshwater biome, but also about the marine biome, deserts,  savannah, rainforest (temperate, tropical), tundra, & grasslands. The class discussion on these really helped me understand and become aware of the different climates, animals, and plants of these biomes.

– Katrina

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An assignment we had to do in biology last week was find information on a biome and create a brochure on it. I did marine biomes. Other people did freshwater, tundra, hot and cold deserts, rainforests, or other climates. Everyone’s project was very interesting. I got a lot of information from http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/exhibits/biomes/index.php. Freshwater biomes consist of lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and wetlands. Before this project I did not know that freshwater areas actually do contain salt, although it is less than1%. My subject, marine biomes consist of oceans, coral reefs, and estuaries. I mainly focused on coral reefs because they are so interesting. The diversity of life in coral reefs is amazing. Thousands of different organisms live together. Before this project, I did not know that a coral reef is actually a mass of living things, called polyps. After they die a new one grows on the old ones skeleton. This is the way that coral reefs grow, skeletons building up, and a coral reef can grow around one inch per 100 years! Desert biomes are also very interesting. Deserts can be hot or dry. Most people think of deserts as hot, barren, sandy land, but one example of a cold desert is Antarctica. They are also semiarid and coastal deserts. Forest biomes cover about 1/3 of the earth. There are tropical, temperate, and boreal forests. Grassland biomes are another biome people did projects on. There are tropical grasslands, savannas, and temperate grasslands. Temperate means moderate, or not extreme. The last biome is the tundra. There are alpine tundra and arctic tundra. Tundra is the coldest of all biomes. I defiantly learned a lot from this biome project and think that earth science about populations and habitats are very interesting.

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