Biology / Ecology

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Biology / Ecology

Ocean Ecosystems - Grades 5-7
The United States has some of the most diverse marine ecosystems of the world. The activity begins by having students assigned to investigate one of four ocean ecosystem illustrations: the Western Antarctic Peninsula, the California Current Ecosystem, the Florida Marine Ecosystem, or the Southeast Alaska Ecosystem. Each illustration is hand crafted by artist and illustrator Kirsten Carlson of the Sea Secrets  children’s book. The illustrations serve to help students make thoughtful observations, to visualize, to compare and to analyze each ocean ecosystem from different locations around the world. This activity emphasizes the ability to read and interpret visual images and representations which is a critical learning skill in understanding new information (Vasquez et. al. , 2010).  Students begin the activity by familiarizing themselves with the locations of the five ocean basins. Then they are asked to identify several living and nonliving components within the ocean ecosystems. Once this is complete, they will compare their observations to an ocean ecosystem that is further away.
















Plankton Identification & Antarctica Ecosystem  - Grades 6-10
What are Plankton / Are All Plankton the Same 
Students identify common types of marine plankton (phytoplankton and zooplankton) from ocean water samples.  They examine plankton size, abundance and variation with the goal of understanding that plankton biodiversity and abundance are used as measures of the health of an ecosystem.

Coordinating video files









Investigating Krill Behaviors - Grades 6-9

Any organism must respond to changes in its environment in order to get food, avoid predators, and successfully breed and  survive.  In this exercise, students simulate aspects of the Antarctic ecosystem and see how simple life forms respond.  Although brine shrimp are different from krill, students will draw inferences about Antarctic krill behavioral responses in a changing environment.  This exercise and the extended challenge provide opportunities to generate discussions on the life history of Antarctic krill in the Southern ocean based on the observations students make using brine shrimp.



  • Krill Profile Sheet

















AntarcTECH Penguin Project

AntarcTECH Penguin Project is a new STEM initiative integrating webcam technology to actively engage students in the scientific process of making observations and documenting the breeding and survival strategies of the Adélie penguins on Torgersen Island, Antarctica.  Students take part in authentic investigations that support their understanding of the impact of climate change on the Adélie penguin species along the western Antarctic Peninsula.  They learn to predict research survey areas using Google Earth.  They design, build and test autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to track penguin movements during foraging trips and understand the importance of marine protected areas and conservation in the Southern Ocean.