Friday, August 31, 2012

Symbiosis - Living together

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!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Coloration & Camouflage

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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Plankton Nekton Benthos

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.

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.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sand & Sea Exploration

Yesterday 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 used scopes and made observations of sand samples from Hawaii, Grand Cayman, Normandy France, Lake Anna, Lake Superior, California, and Virginia Beach. Students determined what the sand was made of, where it came from, how old it was, if it was on an active beach, a windy beach - all kinds of information can be collected from a simple sample of sand!

Today the 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.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Temperature & Upwelling

Today in class we discussed water temperature and upwelling. 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.

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 tomorrow, then it will be homework for the students.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pressure in the Ocean

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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Today we discussed tsunamis, which fascinate most students. 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.

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.

Most people are aware of the large tsunami that hit Japan last spring and the damage it caused to their coasts and towns. We discussed the damages and how powerful a tsunami can be. An interesting assortment of before and after tsunami pictures from Japan can be found here

Monday, August 20, 2012

Flotsametrics - floating stuff

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 and then colored them appropriately.

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. Click on the picture to get a larger view. Here is an excellent website with more information and some nifty graphics. We will continue to discuss this in class.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's Shark Week on Discovery!

It's hard not to get excited about Shark Week on Discovery... Sharks are such interesting sea animals. They have more senses than us weak humans and it really is a good thing that they do not actively hunt or want to eat humans!

My best friend is going to be on "Great White Highway" tonight and I just found out! EEEK! That's her red pony tail right in the center. Mel has been studying elephant seals, a favorite prey item on the great white shark.

At Shark Week's Website you can "Shark Yourself," and although the controls are a bit strange, the results are more than amusing. Check it out here.

This is a cool interactive

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Welcome Back!

Greetings students, parents, and guardians. Welcome back to a new school year with Ms Jancaitis! Welcome to Marine Ecology! This blog has been set up to connect students, parents, and guardians with the marine ecology class.

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.
The course syllabus outlines what the course will be like, what topics will be covered, and course expectations. It also contains contact information. There will be a quiz on this syllabus and classroom procedures on Thursday.

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 Friday and infractions of these rules can lead to disciplinary action as well as low assignment grades. 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 Monday the 20th. 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.