Friday, January 29, 2010

Camouflage and other Predator Prey Adaptations

Today in class we discussed predator prey adaptations - specifically coloration. The first topic is camouflage. Flounder (like the ones pictured) have passive camouflage. Their bodies are patterned and it allows them to blend in with the background. Can you spot the flounder in these photos?

Active camoflage is when an organism can actually change the color of its skin to match a background or flash colors to confuse predators and prey. Watch the Kings of Camoflage video about cuttlefish in the sidebar for more information.

The photo above is from this cool website blog that archives photos of all kinds of animals that are camouflaged.

We also talked about other types of coloration like mimicry, flash, warning coloration, advertising, and sexual dimorphism. Students finished the day by reviewing coloration and coloring their own fishes. Dillon shows off his fish.

The last fish on the page was supposed to match the shirt you had on. Brandon had an excellent example, so I snapped a pic of it. What do you think?

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Symbiosis is when two different organisms work together to survive. There are different types and different outcomes for the animals.
Mutualism is when two animals benefit. One obvious example is the clownfish and the anemone. The clownfish gets a home and protection, the anemone also gets protection and the clownfish acts a lure to attract other fish to eat. Another example that we enjoyed discussing today was the giant clam and its zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae are tiny algae that live in the clam's tissues. The algae give the clam extra energy and food (and make the clam look really pretty). The clam give the algae a home and benefit from the extra food production.

We also discussed parasitism and commensalism. Tomorrow we are going to talk about fish coloration. We are looking at a Unit 2 test in the middle of next week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bioluminescence, Niches, and Change over Time

We started class with a jump in to review food chains and food webs and then watched a little Blue Planet. We watched the parts of The Deep, focusing on bioluminescing organisms. We watched a segment similar to this one found on YouTube. There were some good questions afterward. This creature to the right is a Firefly Squid; it has amazing lighting capabilities.

For more information check out
The Bioluminescence Web Page
How Stuff Works
Or Sea and Sky's page about Bioluminescence.

Today we also discussed evolution and slow change over time. We discussed that evolution is not debated (the mechanism for evolution is) and that we have even seen change in humans in the last two to three hundred years. Typically humans are getting taller and have bigger feet than their parents and grandparents. We think this is because of better nutrition.

We talked about the fossil record and how evidence shows whales changing from land mammals to sea mammals over millions of years and how you can observe the small changes in skeletal structure changing over time.

We finished class discussing competition, predation, and symbiosis. We had some interesting questions about polar bears (the only known bear to actively hunt humans) and talked about why they are in trouble with global warming (which also explains why they hunt humans). Polar bears are excellent swimmer and can swim about a hundred miles before they need to rest for a while. With less ice in the Arctic, they are more likely to drown, but they are also more likely to be hungry from not being able to hunt seals. Humans make good targets for hungry polar bears. Luckily as I pointed out to Jazzy, not many of us want to live where the polar bears live.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Plankton Nekton Benthos Review

Today we started class with a jump in reviewing plankton, nekton, benthos and consumer types. For notes today we talked about food pyramids, food chains, and food webs. We talked about who eats what and how many are needed to support top predators.

Because of the law of 10%, there are often tens of thousands of plants needed to inderectly support a top predator because the plants feed an herbivore, which feeds a consumer or two or three before reaching the top consumer. At each step, ninety percent of energy is lost or consumed and only ten percent is stored in tissues.

To review plankton, nekton, and benthos, students participated in a scooter relay sorting organisms into the categories.
Plankton = floating or drifting lifestyle
Nekton = swimming
Benthos = bottom dweller - attached or crawling

Everyone had to participate once... some folks were really into it like Brandon and Rick. Both teams ended up tied with one mistake - baby fish. I asked a representative from each time where they would put baby fish besides nekton, and Rick and the right side team correctly answered plankton. They received stickers for winning. After all the excitement, students finished the day by working on a food web worksheet.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Today we started Unit 2 on Ecology. First we discussed populations and how to classify individuals. Marlon and Nemo are individuals, but their Population is clown fish. Their community is the anemone, and their ecosystem the coral reef. The biome is warm tropical. Nemo and Marlon are good examples because most students have seen Finding Nemo.

Next we discussed biotic and abiotic. Biotic factors are things that are alive like mates and predators as well as the food you eat. Abiotic factors are not living and have never been alive (technically dead stuff, and even sea shells, are biotic in origin). Abiotic factors include salinity, temperature, waves, pH, dissolved gases and others.

Next we discussed ocean lifestyles. Organisms are classified by how they move and how mobile they are. Organisms that float or drift have a plankton lifestyle. Organisms that swim are part of the nekton. Organisms that spend most of their time at the bottom, either attached or mobile are called Benthos.

We finished the day discussing producers and consumers and what kind of consumers there were. Everyone has heard of a primary or secondary consumer, and herbivore and carnivores, but how about planktivores? Planktivores eat plankton only and include manta rays, clams, basking sharks and many more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review Day

Students started the day with a jump in about basic oceanography and identifying features on a diagram. Students finished up review sheets and started on a Vocabulary Story starring a character named Crest and his adventures. Blanks in the story had to be filled in with vocabulary words and then the student had to draw a picture related to the story.

We finished class with a little Whiteboard Jeopardy, a competitive review game. The winning team was Rick, Ramon, Oneisha, and Stacey.

Unit 1 Test is tomorrow. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Penguins and GoogleMaps

Today students watched a BrainPop movie about penguins because its Penguin Appreciation Day! Students receiving a 7 or higher on the quiz earned a penguin sticker.

There are about 17 species of penguins and not all of them live on the ice. This is a Yellow-Eyed Penguin and you can find them in New Zealand. I didn't take this photo, but I have some just like it from visiting a conservation sanctuary while traveling in New Zealand. I was able to observe them up close!

Students worked on Unit 1 Review Sheets for about 15 minutes to prepare for their Unit 1 Test on Friday. Then we moved on to the computer lab to work on a GoogleMaps scavenger hunt. The first thing students looked up was the high school and their home and they seemed to enjoy that. Students applied their knowledge of sea floor features to various locations around the globe and learned some new stuff.

Tomorrow we are reviewing more and Friday is the Unit 1 Test.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sand and Underwater Vehicles

Today in class we discussed sand. Sand may seem pretty boring, but that is because most people don't know how different sand can be. There is brown and tan sand and white sand that everyone knows. But there is also black sand, red sand, and green sand on beaches in Hawaii (because of the colors of the volcanic rocks). And there is pink sand in some places in the Caribbean because of coral and shells.

After talking about sand and looking at pictures, students looked at sand under a dissecting scope. I have black and green sand samples from Hawaii as well as sand from Virginia Beach, Lake Anna State Park, Normandy France and others. If you visit a sandy place, bring me back a little bit of sand please!

We also discussed underwater vehicles today, what they are and what they are used for. Students watched a short video clip and then did a reading to learn more. ROVs are like remote controlled cars with cords and AUVs are the ones without the cords. Neither is large enough to hold a person and both are used to explore deep ocean areas to learn more. The Titanic was discovered in 1986 using an ROV.

Tomorrow we will be in the computer lab working with GoogleMaps. We will also work on Unit 1 Review Sheets. The Unit 1 Test will be Friday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Today students did a jump in using a reading about the global conveyor of currents that describes the movement of water through the ocean with both surface and deep-water currents.

For notes we continued talking about water movement and addressed ocean temperature and location. Areas near the equator are considered tropical, but do not always have warm water. The same is true for temperate areas between 30 and 60* latitude. Water at the poles is always cold though.

Then we discussed upwelling. Upwelling is when cold nutrient-rich water comes up to the surface. It is fed by deepwater currents hitting land and rising to the surface. These areas have cold water that is full of nutrients, so there is heaps of plankton, and as a result lots of fish and other marine life.

There are two known upwelling spots in California on either side of Monterrey Bay, shown in blue and purple on the map. There are elephant seal and sea lion rookeries (hang outs) at both of these spots because there is plenty of food for the seals and sea lions and their babies to eat.

Students are working on mapping upwelling and then answering questions about the data gathered from a particular day. If this is not finished in class today, then it will be homework for the students.

We are looking at a Unit 1 Oceanography test middle to end of next week. There is no school on Monday, so enjoy the long weekend.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Currents, Plastic Ducks, and Nike Sneakers

Today students learned about the world's currents, their general locations and patterns, and their general temperatures. Sailors have known about some of these currents for a very long time. Early explorers knew it took less time to go to Europe from North America and not the other way, even if they didn't know it was the slightly warmer, slightly faster Gulf Stream that was carrying them along.

Scientists who study currents have historically dropped stuff into the ocean and recorded where it has turned up. Yes, those messages in a bottle can be useful.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer is one of the leading oceanographers in current reserach and he doesn't drop any bottles. Instead he tracks cargo that is lost overboard from large container ships in trans-oceanic crossings. He started with a cargo of Nike sneakers, but has also worked with plastic ducks (pictured), legos. pumice from volcanic eruptions, and wooden barrels. Mr. Ebbesmeyer is most famous for his research on the plastic ducks.

Students plotted the path of the ship leaving Hong Kong using latitude and longitude and then plotted some points where ducks washed ashore. Students read an article about the research using the ducks and other flotsam (flotsam = floating debris) and listened to a podcast interview with Ebbesmeyer. The podcast can be reached here.

Although many ducks, beavers, turtles, and frogs have been recovered, oceanic currents are carrying them further still...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Today students learned about tides, tsunamis, and waves.

Waves are caused by the transfer of energy - in this case ocean energy caused by the wind. We talked about wave parts and how to measure waves.

We discussed tsunamis and how countries around the globe are teaching native peoples to recognize the signs of a tsunami and setting buoys to measure if a tsunami is coming. Students decided that they were glad they didn't live somewhere where the threat of a tsunami is imminent... well except if the Canary Islands fall into the sea.

Last we discussed tides and their causes. Tides are caused by the gravitational tug of the sun and moon on the big wet mass of the oceans. The moon has a larger effect on the tides because it is much closer to the earth.

We finished the notes with Blue Planet Tidal Seas. We watched parts one and two to see tides in action and lifestyle of the organisms that live in tidal areas- both on the small scale from a sand bubbler crab's point of view and on a large scale. The Bay of Fundy in Canada has a tidal range from high tide to low tide of one hundred and fifty feet!

We finished the day with a "Where in the World Map Challenge." Here you can see Oneisha, Rick, and Stacey hard at work scrutinizing the map. In the background you can see TJ, Victoria, and Sharron also working hard. Courtney was the first person do, but Mariah, Mariah, Meg, and Michelle were the first group done. All received goofy prizes.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Today students began Unit 1 on Oceanography. First we discussed the names of the five oceans - yes there are 5! The fifth one was added in 2000 and is called the Southern Ocean. It extends around Antartica and is found below the 60*S latitude.

We discussed the salinity of the ocean and where the salt comes from. The salinity of the ocean is 35ppt, very similar to the amount of salt in our blood.

One class discussed the pH of the ocean, the other will discuss it tomorrow. The key thing to know about ocean water is that it is not neutral! It is slightly basic, about 8, because of calcium carbonate, one of the two main salts found in seawater.

We finished notes by discussing pressure. Pressure increases underwater and with depth because there is more matter above you the deeper you go. Water is more dense than air though, so a change of 10 meters increases the pressure by one atmosphere.

Scientists are a silly bunch and are sometimes artistic. There are few submersibles that go down that are not accompanied by a styrofoam wig head. As the submersible descends, the pressure increases so much that the air is squeezed out of the styrofoam and the head shrinks.

Ms J has some styrofoam cups (donated by a former student) that went 12,000 feet down on a submarine that are very similar. They used to be 12oz cups and now they are only about 4 inches high.

Students finished the day with a pressure lab looking at cups with holes in them. When the cups are filled with water the different holes shoot water out at different rates. Generally the hole at the bottom of the cup shoots the furthest because it is under the most pressure. The hole at the top of the cup barely shoots, and not for long, because there is way less pressure pushing on it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Safety Continued

Students were excellent at identifying what the cartoon people were doing wrong and not too bad at looking up the correct rule numbers. Today students participated in a Safety Challenge interpreting photos of teachers breaking rules or correctly following lab procedure. After all this review, students took the safety test and did well.

Ms J's class tried their hand at identifying each other based on cartoons they drew of each other. Dr. Weidow's class is going to give it a got later in the week. Pictures soon becuase those cartoons are too cute...and too true! You can click on the photo to get a closer view.
One class finished the day with latitude and longitude and the other class finished with the water cycle. Tomorrow, classes will flip-flop and cover the other material.

Monday will be the official start to Oceanography with basic information about oceans, salinity, pH, and pressure followed by a pressure lab.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Safety Safety Safety

Today we learned about new rules and classroom procedures. This will streamline classroom activities to maximize learning. Students filled out a first day survey so I can learn more about them.

We went over safety rules and learned the dangerous spots in class. We also drew safety cartoons and shared them with the class to go over key safety rules. There will be a safety test on Thursday.

Today the students looked at the monster cartoon that I drew to see if they can identify the rights and wrongs as well as the safety rule number in preparation for Thursday's safety test. This is a contest that will conclude tomorrow. Points are awarded for circling things that are wrong and writing the correct rule next to it.Homework - get the syllabus and safety rules signed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Welcome Back!

Greetings students, parents, and guardians.

Welcome to a new school year with Ms. Jancaitis and Dr. Weidow! This blog has been set up to connect students, parents, and guardians with the marine ecology class and with marine topics happening around the world.

At Open House or in class, each student will receive a course syllabus, safety rules, and a breakage sheet. Each of these sheets need to be read and signed by both the student and parent guardian.
  1. The course syllabus outlines what the course will be like and what topics will be covered. It also contains contact information.
  2. The safety rules are rules designed to keep the classroom safe and orderly to maximize learning and prevent accidents and injuries. These rules need to be studied because there will be a Safety test on THURSDAY and infractions of these rules can lead to disciplinary action.
  3. A breakage sheet is a contract holding students accountable for the items that are broken if the student is acting a manner that is unsafe for themselves or those around them.
Please have these papers signed and returned by Friday. Students not returning signed safety rules and breakage sheets will not be able to participate in labs and activities until the contracts are signed and returned.

Computer Lab Etiquette

You are in the computer lab to do work for this class. If you are not doing work, then we will have problems.

Do not pack up early. Work until the bell or until MsJ says.

SAVE OFTEN. And if you save to a key, also save it to your number. If you lose it, you will have to do it again.

If MsJ asks for your attention, stop what you are doing and listen to what she has to say.

You may watch videos about your organism through reliable websites.

You may listen to music through the computer if you have your own headphones. Rule1 MsJ cannot hear it. You get one warning. Rule2 Turn it on and listen – no million clicks and constant changing. Take both ear phones out when MsJ is talking.