Posts Tagged ‘Oceanography’

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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Plate Tectonics and the Seafloor

The people who first mapped the seafloor were aboard military vessels during World War II, using echo sounders  to search for submarines. The results produced a map of seafloor depths. Depth sounding continued after the war. Scientists used this information to produce bathymetric maps of the seafloor. During WWII and in the decade or so later, echo sounders had only one beam, so they just returned a line showing the depth beneath the ship. Later echo sounders sent out multiple beams and could create a bathymetric map of the seafloor below. Using the resources provided, answer the following questions, in complete sentences, on your blog. You may copy and paste these questions and resources, to get you started.

Magnetic Stripes

Magnetic Stripes

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Student Oceanography Essay


Going into this year, I was presented with multiple different options for class and of them all I chose Oceanography. When I first saw that this class was offered it intrigued me because it had been a subject that had interested me for a long time. I chose to take this class because our world is predominantly covered by water so it only makes sense to have knowledge on the majority of the world. In oceanography this year I learned a lot of different things that I did not know. I had learned all about the tides, marine life, explorers, as well as many other things. The things that I could have worked on however would be studying more for the various quizzes that we took. I could have challenged my abilities more and worked a little bit harder in class on whatever we were working on that day. Typically a partner or partners and I would work on the labs in class together and would usually complete them. Another thing that I could have done better on is the blogs.  I completed most of the blogs but I could have put a lot more detail into them. I also could have added more pictures to my blogs to add a visual element to them as well as putting them a step above an average post. As far as recognizing my individual learning style I prefer to work in small groups. I do not mind working alone but I feel as though I work more efficiently when I have the responsibility of not letting others down as well. When I work with others, everyone usually benefits from it through the increased work production. When I work alone, I often work at too slow of a pace and don’t finish in the allotted time. Another way that I like to learn is by lectures. Although it may seem boring I learn better through lectures than I do by going through the book and taking notes. Overall, I feel as though I did a fairly good job at applying myself throughout the course.

            Communication was another big aspect of this class because it was so group oriented. During labs it is usually required to that we work with more than one other person so it is very important that one has the ability to communicate properly and convey ideas to one another. If a person cannot convey their ideas to the other members of the group then the group may be missing out on a very good idea and wont be able to use it. It is also very important to communicate so that everyone in the group will get the same information and answers. I usually just say what ever comes to mind when I am working in a group and if the group likes it then great but if they do not then no harm done.

            Overall in this class I have learned a lot about the ocean by doing a handful of assignments and working through some decently challenging labs. Everything we did was related but at the some time it was different. Because everything connected, I was able to tie some concepts into others to make more sense of them. One thing that I worked on was a project about explorers. I had to research Charles Darwin and his journey on the H.M.S Beagle. And do a presentation on the whole thing. This project was one of the few only independent things I did in the class and I believe that I did very well on it. Another assignment that I worked in this class was an assignment where I was given a specific region on the globe and I had to look up what the wind patterns were going into and out of that region. The region that I had was Marlboro, New Zealand. I learned how wind patterns and ocean currents affect that area. Overall, I learned about the varying affects the ocean has on the world. Whether it be through differing tides or winds. I always new that the ocean was a huge part of life but I never really thought about how large until this course. 

~ R. G.

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Final Oceanography Reflection

Student Post

 Final Essay

            The most important thing a person can do is discover the world around them. There is no life more meaningless than one led without a thirst for knowledge; a yearning to discover the root of existence itself. One’s knowledge of outer space, our Earth, and the oceans surrounding us is vital for a creative and fulfilling life. The latter, our vast seas, are the focus of oceanography, which is why this class was so important for not only my academic career (I would like to major in either environmental studies or marine biology), but also for satisfying my natural craving of new thoughts and ideas. Spanning one semester, this class has taught me a range of information relating to ocean physics. Endless assignments, lengthy labs, and study questions have exercised my mind for the past five months, and countless connections can be made between each assignment, forming a map of ocean information.

            Initially, we covered the basics of how civilizations interacted with the ocean. For example, three primary reasons for early man to interact with the ocean were food gathering, to discover new lands, and for trade. We smoothly transitioned into an ocean exploration project, where we learned about certain explorers and the lands they discovered by sailing. The Polynesians, for example, were the first known explorers to practice open-ocean seafaring beyond sight of land.  After researching well-known ocean scientists, we moved on to how the oceans work.

            Something we concentrated greatly on was how the ocean affects everything around it. Specifically, we talked about hurricanes, tides, and currents. We did a hurricane tracking lab in which we discovered how currents affect the direction and intensity of a hurricane, and how hurricanes are tracked.  A hurricane is formed when air from a surrounding area with higher air pressure pushed into a low pressure area, which rises. Surrounding air swirls to take its place and clouds are formed as the air rises and cools. Clouds and wind spin and grow, gaining energy from the ocean’s heat and evaporating water.  They lose a lot of their energy when they come in contact with land, and tracking them is extremely vital for our safety. We use satellites to track hurricanes. The movement of a hurricane can be changed by currents. Currents include horse latitudes, gyres, west wind drifts, equatorials, and more. Another movement of the ocean is its tides. Tides are caused by the pull of the moon, and vary depending on where you are in the world. Here on our beaches we have two tides a day, high and low, which move and dispense sand.

            During our sand lab, we looked at sand from various places under a microscope and determined where it was from based on its shape, color, size, etc. This was my favorite lab because it was interesting to see such a miniscule object close up with a distinct shape. I learned how to use the Wentworth scale to determine if the grain was clay, sand, etc. based on the size of the grains. We used the squares on a piece of graph paper as our own scale. There were so many different beaches the sands could have been from- it was like a puzzle. This lab connects very well to our work with currents, because the movement of water has a huge effect on sand- its location, how it got there, and its size. Different currents would carry different groups of sand to different places, and some sand was too big to be transported by water- it was formed by erosion. All of the labs we did can be connected.

            One project that really struck me was our research on plastic in the ocean. Ever since elementary school, I have been quite the environmental activist. I remember seeing pictures of sea creatures trapped in waste such as grocery bags, and getting my mom to switch over to reusables. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been cutting the plastic rings on six-pack holders so they don’t get stuck around the beak of a duck or the shell of a turtle. I felt a strong connection with this activity, though it was a short one. It made my appreciation for this class grow, knowing that we not only learn the technical facts about oceans, but also the creature-related ones. I love learning about how an environment affects the living things around it.

            Overall, I learned so much during this semester of oceanography. It was a great foundation for my future in environmental studies and/or marine biology, and perhaps even an internship at the New England Aquarium. Learning about scientists, explorers, winds, currents, salinity, hydrometers, the moon and tides, different formations in the ocean floor, and more was a fascinating addition to my highschool career. This was a great class and it will have a positive effect on my future studies and career.

~ S.M.

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Guest Post

Dancing of the Continents

In the “Dancing With the Continents” assignment I learned a plethora of new information about continents, plates and the way they behave. With Wagner’s original theory in 1920 saying the continents slide over the ocean floor, he had the write idea,  just not the evidence to prove it. As technology got better more evidence was found to prove this theory and in 1960 the theory of seafloor spreading was published by Hess. This explained the enlargement of the ocean floor.  In future years the theory of plate tectonics, the accepted scientific theory of ocean plate movement today, was released. It states the ocean floor is broken into large pieces (approx. 6) and many smaller pieces that move against one another.

With these theories in mind, the activity certainly gave each student a lot to think about. The entire world was shaped differently millions of years ago. We could have taken a 2-3 hour drive over to Paris back then. India was the same distance away as Florida instead of around the world. In a a couple million more years the world will look like a different place because the continents move about 2-3cm each year.  That’s amazing.

– Tom

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Portion of ocean floor, from Google Earth

Portion of ocean floor, from Google Earth

Research Questions

How can ocean floor features be measured and mapped using current acoustical technology? How can ocean floor maps be used in the commercial, military, and/or private sector?


  • Use the description of ocean floor features to construct a three-dimensional model of a section of the seafloor.
  • Simulate active sonar soundings of a model of the ocean floor.
  • Describe the concept of vertical exaggeration and why it is used in construction of side profile maps.


In class, we created models of portions of the ocean floor, using playdough, and simulated collecting sounding data in a grid format.


  1. Based on your seafloor model provide a description of the topography of your surveyed area.
  2. Using the sonar stick is actually simulating what is known as remote sensing technology. What are the advantages of using remote sensing technology for your survey instead of direct observation?
  3. When graphing the ocean floor features we stretched the Y-axis. This is known as vertical exaggeration. What is the advantage of using vertical exaggeration in constructing your profiles of the seafloor?

Conclude and Communicate

  1. Identify the research questions for this activity, and your ideas/answers to those questions.
  2. Define the following ocean floor features (your model maps contained at least three of them) and provide pictures for three of them:
    1. A flat abyssal plain.
    2. An underwater seamount or guyot.
    3. A continental shelf, break, slope, and rise.
    4. A submarine canyon on the continental shelf.
    5. The mid-ocean ridge.
    6. A trench and island arc system.
  3. Write up responses to the three analysis questions above.
  4. Write two new research questions based on what you have learned from this activity:
  5. What was the value and importance of this activity to your study of science.

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Floating Lab Field Trip

Oceanography students were blessed with a picture perfect day for their field trip with the UNH Marine Docents Floating Lab Program on October 4, 2013. This program took place on a fishing boat rented from Eastman’s Docks in Seabrook, NH and consisted of five separate lab activities, each about 25  minutes long. The five labs were:

  • Plankton sampling
  • Charting a position
  • Benthic organisms
  • Water sampling
  • Georges Bank Fish

Students were grouped into five groups and rotated through the stations. Each station had two marine science docents, so the student-to-teacher ratio was no more than 1:3! This was a wonderful opportunity to get some authentic learning for high school students. We also took advantage of a sandy beach lesson after lunch. Each station is briefly described below.

Trawling For Benthics

Before any of the activities got underway, we trawled for benthic organisms and the students helped pull up the catch.

Bottom trawling is a benthic sampling technique that uses a net dragged along the bottom of the water body to collect organisms living there, for further study. The device used in this program is shown in model form in the image below. If has floats on the top of the net and weights on the bottom of the net to keep the net as open as possible. For purposes of scientific study, it provides a “grab” sample of a small area and facilitate habitat mapping studies. Since trawls are destructive in nature, they are not to be used in fragile habitats.

A model of the trawling net is used to explain its operation


The trawl line dragging behind the boat

Students line up and grab a piece of the trawl line rope to pu it up.

Many hands make light work.


Plankton Catch

Students used a standard plankton net – and I forget the size mesh – for taking a plankton sample. The critters were then rinsed down the mesh and collected in a box, where students could take a sample for viewing. The viewing container, I believe this is a DiscoveryScope, is a little clear rectangular box that fits together. This viewing box then fits onto a frame with a magnifying glass to look through. I could not get any pictures through the view box but some of the students were able to.

Stunning students sampling plankton

Working a plankton sampling net

Viewing box to see the plankton collected

Charting Your Position

At this station students determined their location in Hampton Harbor using a portion of the marine chart and parallel rulers. We had tried a similar activity in class, but did not have any parallel rulers, and this – being on the water bobbing around and looking for water towers and high tide lines – gave a more honest representation of how to plot your location. The students also had real compasses, rather than their iPhone compass, which further improved the activity.

Docent showing the Georges Bank Chart

Learning how to use a parallel ruler

Benthic Organisms

The best way to describe what was pulled from the bottom is to show you the pictures.


Tough guy crab


Baby lobsters


Sea squirt


Red algae


Baby mussels and tunicates


Front box: barnacles feeding


Sandollar, baby flounder, and red algae


Adult female lobster with thousands of eggs on swimmeretes

The lobster in this picture was quite large with an impressive number of eggs on the swimmeretes.  I wish I had gotten a better picture



Two baby lobsters with a Jonas crab

Water Sampling

Students setting up a Van Dorn bottle, horizontal water sampler, to take water sample.

<img class=" wp-image " id="i-2158" title="Students take water samples at 5m depth" alt=""

Students take water samples at 5m depth

1003131018Georges Bank Fish

Thinking about what fish use Georges Bank, what they eat, where they live, and their abundance.

Afternoon Sandy Beach Program

We had a 45 min break for lunch (yay! beach pizza from Tripoli’s!) and then one last activity on the beach: How do beaches form? Students examined and compared high, mid, and low-tide sands as well as the wrack line, and made nifty little booklets about what they uncovered.


Student Assignment

Students who went on this field trip are to blog their learning, choosing from one of the questions below or creating their own:

  • How was your ocean literacy changed?
  • What is one thing you learned today?
  • Choosing just one of the floating lab stations, what value did you get from the station?
  • How did this field trip help you understand marine science?
  • How did the field trip illustrate methods used by scientists in the real marine science investigations?
  • What do you understand better now, as a result of the learning stations?

All statements must be supported with evidence (examples), and have follow-up from additional sources (links). The usual two paragraph minimum with a related picture applies. The pictures Ms. Goodrich took are here.


It was a good day. The weather was spectacular. The students were engaged in real, honest-to-goodness science practices. And the staff of both Eastman’s and the UNH team were great.

Thanks goes out to Dari Ward at UNH for organizing this wonderful ocean literacy program. The docents on this field trip were extremely professional, knowledgeable, friendly and experienced. They enhanced the program considerably with these qualities.  The program itself is funded through a New Hampshire Sea Grant.

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You have been challenged to design a practical underwater laboratory, or habitat, for aquanauts to live and work  for one to two weeks while they conduct marine science research. The considerations you’ve been ask to account for in your design are:


One thing that you are not taking into consideration is the practicality of building your aquapod and assembling it underwater.

A network of focused experimental sites are being constructed in the Northeast Pacific Ocean to serve researchers, students, educators, and policymakers and begin “a new era of scientific discovery and understanding of the oceans”. The research stations are not habitats for living in but rather a series of sites with an array of monitoring equipment for monitoring chemical, physical, biological, and sediment conditions.

Your task today is to:

  1. Read the news article describing the observatory.
  2. Watch two or three three short videos of the work being undertaken. I suggest Dive 1482 Highlights, Dive 1604, and Dive 1596 Highlights.
  3. Read the National Geographic article Huge Molasses Spill Off Hawaii: A Diver’s Report.
  4. Write a two to three paragraph blog post that reflects either:  a) your thoughts on the observatory installation (How tricky is it to build an underwater research station? What considerations must be accounted for?); or b) your thoughts on the effects of the molasses spill (How should people respond to this? Could this have been prepared for? What should be done next?).

That’s it: two to three paragraph blog post on one of the above topics (but read both). Make sure you label your post, include cited pictures, and include at least two hyperlinks to further information.

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There are many things that we learned about the ocean currents. Ocean currents are a continuous, direct movement of ocean waters generated by different forces acting upon this, such as, wind, waves, the Coriolis Effect, temperature, and the tides. They can flow for a great amount of distance and help determine the climate of many of the Earth’s regions. Surface ocean currents develop their clockwise spiral in the northern hemispheres and their counterclockwise spirals in the southern hemispheres due to the different wind stressors. In wind-driven currents, the Ekman spiral effect results in the currents flowing at an angle to the driving winds. The salinity and the tides cause the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun.
One action that we will take to protect the ocean is to recycle a lot more and to use a lot less plastic in our everyday lives.

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Ocean currents help navigate objects in the ocean because of the Coriolis Effect as well as gyres, which systemize the currents formations within the ocean. Currents also decide where storms are going too be located because of Ekman transport which controls the winds which blow or navigate the water currents. Ocean currents affect everyday life by putting powerful currents against fishing industry determining the time of return of ships and boats around the worlds ocean. Sea life such as certain fish migrate towards warm ocean currents seasonally therefore also determines the amount of sea food captured by fishermen from their native countries. This is what I know about ocean currents and why they are important in the cycle of the oceans in the world.

I own a house in Machias, Maine located in front of the ocean and bay. The bay has a lobster fishing port where a number trash originates from. Ocean currents out further often transport trash and non degradable waste in front of my home which pollutes many beautiful natural waters and places due to pollution and shifting currents bringing in trash within our bay. This saddens me because plastic products such as bottles to plastic buckets destroy beautiful parts of nature due to the irresponsible of humans and their contamination. Often in the summer I and my family go for boat rides passing random trash within our ocean. In order to stop my dissatisfaction of these waters, I will help retrieve trash in open waters that I encounter. Ever since I was little my father and I have picked up trash washed up on the shores because of someday hoping the world can be cleaner again. If this occurs then pristine beauty as well as life will flourish again bringing the natural world closer to what it was ages ago.

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In Oceanography class we have recently been learning about oceans and how pollution can effect the creatures living in our oceans. We use a lot of plastic in our everyday lives and we need to be more cautious about where that plastic is going in the long run. What most people dont realize is that if we are careless and dont recycle or cut down on the amount of plastic we use, we are hurting sea creatures because of where that plastic ends up. In class, we have learned about currents and we have watched graphic videos of sea creatures being hurt by the plastic that is in our oceans. We need to take action and change how much plastic we use and we need to make sure that we recycle the plastic that we do use. By using less plastic, we can have a big impact on the cleanliness of our oceans and better the lives of the creatures in the oceans. One action that we could take in order to reduce ocean pollution is to make sure that we are recycling all of our plastic. Another thing that we could do to prevent plastic in our oceans is reusing the plastic that we have so that we create less waste in the long run. Keeping our oceans clean is an important thing and we have many ways that we can help keep creatures safe from the harm that plastic poses. Changing minor parts of our every day lives can help ensure a longer, healthier life for the animals that live under the sea!

An example of the destruction that ocean pollution causes in West Hawaii

Mae West, the snapping turtle stuck in six pack can packaging
A video of Mae West in action:

Beth Terry, an activist for a plastic-free life
A link to her blog: http://myplasticfreelife.com

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On the field trip to Seacoast Science Center, I learned lots of new information about oceanography. The topic covered most was the seasons of the sea. I learned that the water I swim in is not actually the Atlantic Ocean, but it is the Gulf of Maine. I also learned that the water warms up quickly in the summer and takes a while to cool down in the winter. One of my favorite parts of this field trip was searching for sea glass on the beach. I found multiple, relatively small pieces of sea glass at Seacoast Science Center. Sea glass is made from bottles or pottery that has been tossed in the ocean. The glass is broken up by the tumbling of waves and the current of the ocean. The frosty-looking finish on sea glass is formed by a hydration process. The contents within the bottle (such as soda or beer) or the minerals within the glass slowly leak out and form a frosted appearance on the glass. Sea glass and the way it is formed is a very interesting topic.


The Most Common Colors of Sea Glass






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Waters of the Gulf of Maine

Last week our oceanography class went on a field trip to Ordione state park. On the day trip we learned many things. We had a presentation and got to do many activities in small groups that gave us a chance to do some problem solving on our own . One of the things I learned was that there are many ways used to show the months and temperatures using the water and the tides. Charts can show that the lighter colors represent summer and the dark represent winter. The tides also depend on the moon phases showing high and low tides. The areas that are in the Red, Orange and yellow have warmer climates then the blue and greens. Overall I believe this field trip taught me a lot of information about oceanography in a different way and gave us a chance to really experience this stuff through a presentation and looking at the tide pools.

– Erika S.


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Recently my Oceanography class went to Odiorne State Park. The Hermit Crab or Pagurus Bernhardus was the most prominent animal that I discovered amongst the sand and rocks. I learned that the Hermit Crab can be found here on our beaches in the north east, to as far as coastlines in Russia. I mostly found this animal in the tide pools that had formed due to the low tide on the beach that we were located at. I also learned that Hermit Crabs tend to change their shells quite often. This is interesting to me because it shows how the Hermit Crab is always changing and adapting to their environment. Many other species would be doomed if there habitat was changed on a constant basis. Ordiorne State Park was a great place to go for a class field trip. It had a great amount of wildlife and information for me to learn more about Oceanography and Marine Sciences. The Hermit Crab shell change is a large part of their life. Here is an actual shell change taking place in real life.

Odiorne state park is a great place to visit no matter what time of the year, proof of that is here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtfPWmGxIoI. Oceanography is an interesting field if you like to boat or would like to know more about the ocean. New England’s climate plays a big part in where Hermit Crabs choose to live in the north east.

-Kyle C.

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Our trip to the OdiorneBeach   Theresa Apicella

Yesterday, October 4th we went on a field trip to the NationalSeacoastScienceCenter in New Hampshire. We got to learn about the sea creatures that live in the small bodies of water. I learned that certain animals can only live in waters that are a certain temperature. When we checked out the touch tank, the water was freezing because the animals in there can only survive in that temperature. When we were outside we got to actually go in the water and look for animals. We found lobsters, crabs, snails, and sea urchins. It was a lot of fun to be able to find all these animals and learn about them. When we were inside we learned about the change of the water temperature over the seasons and how everything changes underwater when the seasons change. I really enjoyed visiting the science center and being able to discover all these new things and learn so much.

The Beach Area                                                                Some Lobster from the OdiorneBeach Water




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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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I thought the field trip was very beneficial to my understanding of oceanography. At the Seacoast Science Center, we learned a lot about the Gulf of Maine and how it changes throughout the course of a year. Not only does the climate and temperature change, but the sea creatures do as well. One thing that I found extremely interesting was how the temperature of the water changes. I had always assumed that the water was the coldest in the winter and the warmest in the summer. I learned that the water is actually warmest in the fall. This is because the water has been warming up since spring and summer, so the surface of the water is pretty warm. This is why water activities such as canoeing and kayaking are most popular during this time of the year. Another interesting fact was that the Gulf of Maine is actually the most active seaport in the nation. The University of New Hampshire uses very expensive equipment to track their findings. Overall, I thought this was an extremely interesting learning experience.

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One month of casual moon watching just barely breaks the surface of questions that could be asked and discoveries to be uncovered. Our one month of moon watching in New England was further hampered by frequent cloudy skies that blocked moon sightings. Initially, most students resisted keeping the moon journals, because they felt that looking at the moon each night was a pointless exercise, having “learned” the moon phases in elementary school. These students are now juniors and seniors in high school.

The assignment called for students to, each day, record their sighting of the moon and shape a question about that sighting. Their drawings, observations, and questions were to be assembled in a small booklet, which could be purchased or made from a stack of file cards, with each day on a separate page. Each entry was required to include date, time, and an indication of altitude and direction. I provided the students with daily tide information, and several times over the month data was shared in class. Students who stuck with the assignment, particulary the “ask a question” portion of it, found it surprisingly interesting and gained new understandings. Here are a few of the questions they had:

  • What is the angle [degree of inclination] the moon is at tonight?
  • How fast does the moon rotate?
  • How many hours is the moon out each day?
  • How much of a change is there each day?
  • How can no moon be visible at all?
  • Why can’t you always see the moon?
  • How many craters are on the moon? How deep are they?
  • How high does the moon go in the sky?
  • Does the height the moon rises to change with the seasons?

Many students turned in work that was no more than hand-drawn phases of the entire month, as gleaned from an internet site.

At the end of one month, students were to write a full page analysis that demonstrated how their thinking proceeded during this work and comparing tide data with moon phase observations. Portions of their reflections include:

“While doing my moon journal out of school, I seemed to learn a lot. It rekindled the things I learned in elementary school, about the Moon’s waxing and waning phases. Following the moon phases was kind of cool. One thing I missed was the connection between the tides and the moon phases. We added tide heights to the moon journal entries we did at the very beginning, but I never found out the connection. I feel as though that is an important piece that I am missing. Overall, the Moon in the days we were assigned to view it changed a lot. I really got the feeling that the Earth and the Moon are orbiting in space, and stuff, because the moon was always a different height in the sky and was constantly changing phases. Hopefully we will be going over the whole tide stuff  because I am very interested in them.”

“Through this activity it has brought back memories of moon journals in younger grades and I hope to learn about these phases more during class.”

“When we started this project, I did not understand where we were going to go with it. As we started to observe the moon I found myself noticing things that I never would have seen before. I also never knew that the moon had so much to do with the ocean tides.”

“This assignment was ok. It got a little boring after a while because the moon would be the same shape every night. I did this assignment in Elementary and 8th grade as well so it wasn’t anything new. Asking a question every night got a little tough. It was hard thinking of moon questions that I didn’t already ask.”

“The information recorded in my moon journal included the time I saw the moon, the angle of the moon, and a drawing of how it looked. The journal shows its phases from waxing to full to waning. I thought this was very interesting. I also thought it was interesting the way the angle and time of observation were directly correlated.”

 Reading these reflections highlights the need for more work, both in and out of class. While we discussed our observations during the first two weeks, I thought I had lead them far enough that they could continue on their own, which does not seem to be the case. The students are also wanting me to explicitly answer their questions, rather than continuing on their own and discovering for themselves. This makes me unhappy because I wish for them to have ownership of their discoveries, rather than me sticking them with factoids. As I was collecting the journals, I asked the students “Did anyone notice that Jupiter was full last week?”, expecting questions about the idea that Jupiter could be “full”; not a single student commented.

The moon acts as a clock for the planet that drives the tides of the oceans, the great lakes, and other fluids. Most humans are too involved with other pursuits to notice the effects of the moon on the planet and their lives, but animals, such as fresh water fish and migrating birds, have not tuned it out.  What else does the moon affect? What if there were no moon?

My students will be asked to continue their journaling and their observations, and I am hoping they will make their own authentic discoveries.

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Sanderlings are small sandpipers, 18-20 in length. Weighing anywhere from 40-100 g. In the winter it becomes very pale, in the summer the face and throat become brick-red. They are mostly seen along the edge of the water, picking at bugs in the sand or along the waters edge. They are also known to nest in the plants in the sand.

While we were at plum island I noticed these birds scurrying along the beach. Everyone thought they were baby seagulls because of their shape, but they have several differences from seagulls. First off the beaks are of different shape and color. Seagulls have thicker beaks that are orange while sanderlings have thinner beaks which are usually black. The coloring of the wings are also different with the birds, seagulls are mostly white with slight hints of color. Sanderlings are usually white on their belly with different shades of brown for their top feathers. They also walk differently. Seagulls take longer strides while sanderlings walk swiftly on shorter legs.

Sanderlings are found on open sandy beaches at the edge of the waves, on sandbars and where the grass meets the sand. They roost on sand in the dunes or behind piles of kelp. Their average size is 20 cm, average weight is 60 g, and their breeding season is  June to August. Their family size is three to four with a nesting period of 27 days. They eat mostly insects and other smaller bugs along the seashore and small crustaceans. They also eat seeds on their nesting grounds. They are threatened on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (the migration route to Australia) including problems of economic and social issues like; wetland destruction and change, pollution and hunting.





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Human Effects on Beaches

An examplw of beach erosion with a house falling into the ocean.

A sea turtle caught in a plastic bag.

Bird caught in a plastic bag.

During my recent field trip with Ms. McCarron’s Oceanography class we attended Plum Island beach and other sites as well. While on my trip to the beach I observed many different species of plants. These plants included beach grass, dusty miller, different sea weeds, golden rods, and other plants. As I studied these plants I realized that they had all adapted to their environments. The plants were sturdy and could handle the winds of the beach and the salty sea water as well. While on the beach, I also saw some animal life. The animals I saw were crabs, oysters, muscles and seagulls too. Seeing these animals left me thinking about how beaches are affected by us humans “invading” their homes. Overall, there are many ways that beaches are affected by humans and I observed many of these while on the field trip.
One way that beaches are being affected by humans is the development of houses on beaches. These houses are disturbing the natural habitats of beaches by adding human interaction that wouldn’t normally be so close to beach plants and wildlife. Also these houses are having problems caused by the beaches as well. The natural erosion of sand on beaches by the waves is causing houses to be literally falling into the ocean. In an effort to stop this erosion, barriers or Sea Walls are often built, but these walls can actually cause more damage as they can add waste to the beach as the walls break and even in some cases cause more erosion than before. Another way humans are impacting beaches is by collecting and hunting wildlife. As humans collect shells they could possibly be taking away the “new” home for a crab that has outgrown its shell and may be in search of a new one. Then in the case of hunting wildlife, this would be activities such as fishing that could be depleting a certain type of fish in the sea. Thus taking a way an organism that is a vital part to the ocean’s ecosystem as a species and a source of food for other organisms. A final effect of humans on beaches is pollution. This waste would be any trash that humans leave behind on the beaches as this will affect the wildlife. Animals such as seagulls can easily mistake trash for food and can choke in an attempt to eat said “food.” Animals can also become easily entangled in plastic bags. Another waste I actually observed on the beach was small white disks spread throughout the plant life. After some further questioning I came to find these were indeed biohazard disks. From further research I’ve learned that there were similar disks found on Hampton and Salisbury beach from a wastewater plant. This could be the cause of the disks on Plum Island or just a similar case, either way the impact of this biohazardous waste on the Beach is grave to the wildlife and their environment. All in all, there are many ways that humans impact beach wildlife, plant life, and environment.
So overall, my observations and research on the human effects on beaches relates to the study of Oceanography greatly. The way that humans interact with beaches affects wildlife and oceans as well. Humans’ negative impacts on beaches such as overhunting, development, and human waste all leave a mark on the oceans that are an important part of our planet. Oceans provide humans with a source of food, business, and a beautiful place to relax. Oceans also play an important part in the natural balance of the Earth and our lives. In the end, human interactions with beaches and oceans relates to the study of Oceanography as a whole because the way we interact with the beaches has effects on Oceans and the Earth as a whole.

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