Monday, August 30, 2010

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gross Out - Parasites! And the importance of Keystone Species

BBC Article
Today we started class by working through examples of symbiosis - mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. Students had to think about many examples and were very good about asking questions. While they were working, students listened to a podcast about a scientist who was infected with a botfly larvae. Botfly larvae are transferred to humans by mosquito bites and the larvae grow bigger and develop under the skin feeding on the host. This scientist was a bit strange and decided to allow the botfly larvae to develop on his head until it grew enough to leave on its own. A little gross. You can listen the podcast here. Of course then we had to see a video of one getting removed. Also gross. Here's a video from AnimalPlanet, although not the one I showed class.

Then we watched a video about the candiru fish in the Amazon that swims into other fish's gills and sucks their blood - not so bad - except urine smells the same, so when people are in the water peeing, it is attracted to the people and swims up their urethras. Ouch. Amazingly, students were still actively engaged in class.

We talked about keystone species. Keystone species are important members of the food web because they help maintain biodiversity and keep everything in balance. An example is a sea otter. Sea otters eat sea urchins and keep their population in check.

When the sea otters are removed (like when they used to be hunted for their fur), the sea urchin populations go crazy, eat all the kelp (as in many many 300 foot tall plants), and the loss of kelp leads to a drop in biodiversity because there is less food and habitat for the many other species that like to live in and on and among the kelp.

We finished class with independent work time so students could work on the National Geographic Reading (look at previous posts), their niche cartoon, and their vocabulary.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interactions and Relationships

Today we started class with a jump in about lifestyles and feeding relationships. Students had to look at some crazy drawings and decide whether the pictured organisms were plankton, nekton, or benthos based on their characteristics. Then they had to read silly statements and decide what those organisms might be eating.

We started class with a BrainPop on symbiosis and then went right into notes covering the same material. We did take a lot of notes today, but the subject matter is interesting and students were asking a lot of questions.

Mutualism is the relationship that is best understood because both organisms benefit - although the advantages are not often clear to us. Pictured to the left are an alligator and plover, eel and cleaner shrimp, and zebra and finch - all of these are cleaning relationships. The smaller organism eats parasites and gets a meal and the larger organisms will not eat it as well as get the benefit of being cleaner (less infection and disease). The bottom right picture is a blind bulldozer shrimp and a goby fish. They share a dwelling that the shrimp builds, and the fish lets the shrimp know when trouble is coming. (Photos from this cool blog)

Parasitism involves things that give us the heebie jeebies. These parasites take advantage of their host, usually feeding on the host, and benefit. The host gets no benefits and over the long term is harmed.

Commensalism is when one organism benefits and the other is unaffected. So one gets all these advantages from the other... but the other doesn't get a benefit from it and isn't harmed by it.

Here are some other fun photos of oceanic relationships. Identify some and turn them in for extra credit!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lifestyles and Feeding

Today in class we discussed different lifestyles. Organisms can be plankton and spend their lives floating and drifting. Nekton means they can swim. Benthic organisms, or organisms that spend their time on the bottom can be attached, can crawl, walk, and some swim - but if they swim they swim along the bottom and spend most of their time resting on the bottom.

Michelle and Harley are racing back
Students participated in a relay sort of different organisms and rode scooters in the relay - you know the scooters they loved in elementary school. Awesome. Kids that participated loved it, kids that didn't participate maybe have grown up to fast. Students rolled down the hall and dropped cards into boxes based on whether they thought the organisms belonged to the plankton, nekton, or benthos. In the end, Team A finished the fastest, but also beat team B by earning more correct points.

I think this is Nate and Kaitlin
Delayfayette and Corrin were laughing as they rolled to the finish
Next we discussed eating. Producers don't eat - they can make their own food. Producers starts with P and so does Plants and PhytoPlankton.

Herbivores eat plants, Carnivores eat meat, and Planktivores eat plankton. Students worked on a worksheet sorting organisms into their varying lifestyles and eating preferences to finish class.

We technically finished class with a little Blue Planet - watching orcas practically beach themselves in an attempt (a successful attempt to eat baby seal lions on the beach). :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unit 1 Test

Today after the jump in, students finished up review sheets. Students worked as a group on three way matching - matching a vocabulary word with a definition and a picture and then worked with a partner on a 4x4 vocab puzzler. Students were not fazed by the difficulty of these puzzles and did well.
Students finished class with the Unit 1 Test and a reading about fish coloration from National Geographic. The article can be found online - here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sand and Underwater Vehicles

Students started with a reading about the Great Ocean Conveyer Belt and some oceanography questions using the tables and diagrams in their notes.

Today we discussed sand and where it comes from, what its made of, what colors it can be, an how shape and size affect the texture. In Hawaii there are black, red, and green sand beaches that have been deposited from the weathering and erosion of volcanic rocks. In the Caribbean, you can visit white and pink sand beaches from the weathering and erosion of sand and coral. Students made observations of sand samples from Hawaii, Grand Cayman, Normandy France, Lake Anna, Lake Superior, California, and Virginia Beach.

The rest of class was spent working independently on the seafloor features surrounding the United States and reading and answering questions about underwater vehicles. Submarines are larger than submersibles and carry more people and can go longer distances. ROVs and AUVs are robots like remote-controlled cars, but go underwater. ROV's have a tether (cord) connecting them to power and AUVs do not.

Tomorrow students will review the material in Unit 1 for the test on Monday.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seafloor features

Today students started class with a jump in designed to get them up, moving, and learning about the other kids in class. Questions had to do with if kids are on time, if they pack their lunch, and more. It also got them more familiar with kids in the class that they may not know.

We watched a powerpoint about plastic bags and how almost ninety percent of them are not recycled and quite a lot of them end up blowing and floating around the environment where they look gross but also pose a hazard to wildlife. Most students do not think about where their garbage ends up. If you'd like to see the presentation - click here. For more information about plastics in the ocean - check out this info from the Ocean Conservancy.

Today in notes we covered sea floor features. We discussed the definitions and identified them on maps and then answered some questions. Test yourself - can you identify the features to the right?

Students finished class by using their vocabulary in a creative story and watching some BluePlanet about the deep sea features we discussed in class.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Light in the Ocean

Today in class we discuses light in the ocean. Areas where the light can reach are known as the photic zone, and can extend to as deep as 300 feet where the water is really clear and not turbid. The aphotic zone is the darker area where the light does not reach - and includes most of the ocean.

Turbidity is a measure of how clear the water is - and does not necessarily refer to dirt. Turbidity is often affected by tiny microscopic plankton that float in the water - this is the main reason why the North Atlantic Ocean is not clear.

We also discussed bio-lumi-nescence - the ability of organisms to make their own light. This can be used to attract prey, get mates, or to deter predators. Many of these creatures live in the deep sea and are ugly. We looked at some photos taken by Dr. Edie Widder of deep sea creatures and watched some videos. For more information and photos - click here

Students finished class by working on a worksheet concerning upwelling in California. Upwelling is when cold water rises to the surface bringing up important nutrients.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tides, Waves, Tsunamis... oh my!

Students started with a jump in going over key concepts from the notes on Friday. Today in class we discussed waves, powered by wind, and their parts. We were interrrupted by a fire drill, but students were quizzed during this time on concepts they should know, earning stickers for correct answers.

Back in the classroom, we discussed tsunamis. Tsunamis are caused by underwater earthquakes and they displace water. Displacement of water causes a large wave or energy to travel through the water, but it cannot be seen at the surface until the wave approaches shallow water. (Confused? Check out the diagram to the left) Because the wave is not felt in deep water, going out to sea is one option for escaping a tsunami, getting onto land with higher elevation is another option. There are places in Japan and Hawaii where fishermen went out to sea in the morning and when they returned, their villages had been washed away.

Next we discussed tides. Tides are caused by the moon's gravitational pull on the ocean. The sun has an impact too, but the moon's impact is greater because it is a lot closer. The ocean water bulges towards the moon and causes the high tide... areas perpendicular to the bulge are having a low tide. Because the earth is rotating, each place is going to have two high tides and two low tides each day.Spring high tides are exceptionally high and really really low when the earth, sun, and moon are all lined up in a row.  Click on the diagram for more information.
We finished class by discussing temperature and locations on the globe and watched some blue planet on tides, tidal bores, sand bubbler crabs that comb through sand eating macro-organisms, and bears that eat clams.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Today students began class with a BrainPop on currents and took the quiz. Tim and Moby did an excellent job describing how currents affect global weather patterns. They also explained global water circulation in the global conveyor belt.Click on the photo for a better view.

Students took notes on dissolved oxygen and learned that there is less oxygen available in the water than in the air we breath (12 parts per million vs 200 pmm) and that dissolved oxygen varies with temperature. Cold water holds more DO, just like cold sodas have more carbonation.

Pressure is the weight of particles above you and increases with depth in water. Right now there is one atmosphere of pressure squeezing on all of us, but we are used to it, so we don't notice the difference. We may notice our ears popping when driving over Shenandoah or flying in an airplane when pressure decreases. Water is 800 times more dense than air, so underwater, pressure increases dramatically. Pressure increases one atmosphere with every ten feet of depth, so all you need to do is dive down the deep end of the pool and you will feel an increase in pressure to two atmospheres (one for the water, and one for the air)

Scientists think it is funny to take styrofoam deep into the ocean because the pressure underwater will squeeze the air out of the styrofoam and "shrink it." Really it is just compressed and more dense. Here is a photo of what happens to styrofoam wig-heads and cups when taken down a few thousand feet, a change of several atmospheres of pressure.
Brittany oversees the boys as Brendan, Brandon, and Bruce try to measure the water correctly

Students finished class with a lab demonstration of how pressure increases with depth using cups of water with three holes. Water squirted further out of the bottom hole because there was more weight and pressure pushing down on that part of the cup. Students did an excellent job working together and cleaning up.
Morgan removes the tape, Micheal holds the ruler, and all try to read the measurements
Carlton peels the tape while Corrinn, Courtney, and Cherie get their measurements
In this photo are Noel, Nate, Rachel, and Tommy

Latitude and Longitude Extra Credit

We watched a BrainPop featuring Tim and Moby hiking in the mountains. They claimed their position was:

60* 5' 22" N       
159* 13' 10" W

For extra credit (up to five people), tell me where they were hiking.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oceanography - Salinity, pH, and Currents

Today students got an introduction to oceanography. We discussed the salinity of the ocean (an average of 35 parts per thousand), the pH (the ocean has a pH of 8, which is basic), and currents (water that moves at different rates than the surrounding water because of wind).

Currents can be identified by their temperature, salinity, and density. Students identified which currents were warm and cold by looking at where they are coming from.

Next students learned more about how scientists learn about currents. Students practiced latitude and longitude by plotting some points of a cargo lost overboard and where some of the shipment washed up beaches, then they read articles and answered questions, and finished up by listening to a podcast interviewing Curtis Ebbesmeyer, the oceanographer who studies sneakers, rubber ducks, and other floating debris. You can listen to the podcast here.

In the interview, and in the readings, gyres full of floating plastic debris are discussed. Here is a map showing some of the locations of these gyres. Cick on the picture to get a larger view.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


After finishing their safety tests, students finished up the longitude and latitude from the day before. Then students worked in groups on map skills, labeling parts, and a scavenger hunt of places around the world that I feel they should be familiar with.

To finish up class, we discussed currents and watched a video clip about currents and some of the ways that scientists study them - by tracking cargo that is lost overboard and washes up on shores around the world. We will discuss this in more detail tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Safety and Lattitude & Longitude

Today students reviewed safety rules by looking over a cartoon and trying to figure out what the people were doing correctly and incorrectly. They also had to identify the rule numbers (which is a lot more effort). Then students played a quick round of Fact or Scat where they had to decide whether statements about safety were true or false. There were also some getting to know you questions like "how do you squeeze a tube of toothpaste?" and "who was your first significant other?" Giggling abounded as students reviewed and got to know the people they were sitting with. The safety test will be tomorrow (Wednesday).

To finish class, we discussed latitude and longitude, how to figure it out, and its uses. I walked them through how to determine latitude and longitude for a point and then they practiced. Students will finish that up in class on Wednesday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

First Day of Class

Today was a get-to-know-you kind of day. Students started with an informal survey about themselves, including a likeness of themselves which I will use to learn their names. Students were familiarized with classroom procedures and expectations.

Students reviewed safety rules for their safety test on Wednesday by drawing cartoons and then trying to guess what rules were pictured on each other's cartoons.

Class was a little odd because of class meetings (marine ecology is a mix of juniors and seniors), but went smoothly.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Welcome Back to School!

Greetings students, parents, and guardians.

Welcome to a new school year with Ms Jancaitis! This blog has been set up to connect students, parents, and guardians with the marine ecology class as well as ocean science happenings around the world.

At Open House or in class, each student will receive a course syllabus, safety rules, and a breakage sheet. The safety rules and breakage sheet needs to be read and signed by both the student and parent guardian.

  1. The course syllabus outlines what the course will be like, what topics will be covered, and course expectations. 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 WEDNESDAY 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.