Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Intro to Coloration in the Sea

We talked about fish coloration and camouflage. Some of the tricks these fish have up their fins to blend in or advertise or trick predators are quite ingenious. 

One of my favorite organisms is the nudibranch - basically a slug that lives in the ocean. These soft squishy slimy critters would make excellent snacks, but they are all poisonous! They have warning coloration to let would-be predators know that they would not taste good at all. You can click here for a National Geographic Article about nudibranchs.

Conservation Report - Can you see me? Is a link to an awesome website with many examples of amazing animal camouflage - some on land and some in the sea. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

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.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Temperature and 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, January 16, 2013

Global Conveyer Belt

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. Students also did a reading about this global water movement. Click on the photo for a better view.

Global water movement is important for oxygen and nutrient distribution, but also has major impacts on migration of animals and weather patterns. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sand & Sea Exploration

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! Here are MsJ's toes on a black sand beach in Hawaii!

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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Plastics and the Sea floor

Almost ninety percent of plastic bottles 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.

Many people mistakenly think that the sea floor is flat. Well about 80% of it is called the abyssal plain and is relatively flat, but the sea floor has mountains and canyons just like the land we see everyday! We discussed the definitions and identified them on maps and then answered some questions. Test yourself - can you identify the features to the right?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Floating Stuff and Currents

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.

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

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, January 10, 2013

Light in the Ocean

Today students learned about light in the ocean and how far light travels down. The amount of light transmitted depends on the turbidity (clarity) of the water. Different colors of light travel different lengths. Blue travels the farthest, but red, orange and yellow do not travel far. Because red does not travel far, these organisms appear black.

After discussing bioluminescence (organisms that can produce their own light) we looked at brief video clip about it that is a little old and then a TED talk by David Gallo that is more recent. Gallo's talk showed the organisms in more accurate color and in motion. His talk also showed some amazing footage of cephalopods like cuttlefish and octopus performing magical feats of mimicry and camouflage. You should definitely follow the link and watch this video stream.

His talk was based on research by Dr. Widder. We looked at some of her photos and you can learn more about her work and see her presentation here.

When it comes to deep sea creatures - some bioluminesce and some don't. People are fascinated with the gulper eel, a four foot long eel that has a HUGE jaw. It has such a big mouth so that it can eat anything it comes in contact with because in the deep ocean, meals may be far and few between. More information about the gulper eel and other deep sea creatures can be found at Sea & Sky's Website.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


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.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

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. 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.

We did a quick demo lab with plastic cups and water to demonstrate how pressure increases with depth.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

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 14th. 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.