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Program BioBlitz

  • 1. Show students the presentation Mapping Information.
    Use the Powerpoint presentation to introduce the definition of a map and discuss some examples. Review common map elements and learn about biologists who use mapping as part of their research. Review the steps students can take to make their own maps.

    2. Introduce key issues.
    Have students read the National Geographic article "Right Whales: On the Brink, On the Rebound" or watch the Wild Chronicles video segment "Whales Tagged to Prevent Collisions" to become familiar with critical issues facing whales today. While the article focuses on right whales and the video focuses on humpback whales, either resource is relevant, as there are many common issues.

    3. Have students reflect and discuss.

    Ask students to reflect on what they learned. Possible discussion prompts:

    • What are some threats facing whales today? (Possible responses: Threats include ship strikes, fishing lines, and chemical and noise pollution.)
    • What are scientists and volunteers doing to help conserve and protect right whales? (Possible responses: Using photography, geo-tagging, DNA analysis, land and air surveillance, acoustic buoys, and an Early Warning System to alert ship captains.)

    4. Distribute the worksheets and introduce the data sets.
    Explain that students will map data collected by right whale researchers and analyze the results. Familiarize students with the information on Right Whales Data and the Mapping Right Whales Data base map, introducing components such as:

    • North Atlantic Right Whale Adult and Calf Deaths—this data set indicates the location of adult and calf deaths reported in this area between 2004–2007.
    • Right Whale Auto-Detection Buoys—this data set indicates the location of acoustic buoys used to detect the presence and location of whales. A relay system alerts ship captains to slow down or divert in order to avoid a ship strike.
    • Shipping Lanes, Major Ports, Right Whale Seasonal Management Area—Shipping lanes to and from major ports help regulate ship traffic within a seasonal management area.
    • Grid System—a coordinate system that uses latitude and longitude measurements to locate points on the Earth’s surface. In the data sets, latitude and longitude are indicated in decimal degrees. On the map, each hash mark equals one-tenth of a degree.

    5. Have students complete their maps and discuss answers.
    Give students time to complete their maps. Then, ask students to share their maps and discuss the following questions from the worksheet Right Whales Data:

    • A calving ground is an area where whales give birth and care for their young. Based on the ratio of adult to calf mortalities, could there be a calving ground in this area? (The ratio of calf to adult deaths is two to one, indicating a concentration of calves in this area.)
    • Look at the location of these factors: (a) Right Whale Auto-Detection Buoys; (b) shipping lanes; and (c) right whale adult and calf deaths. Where would you place more buoys to prevent whale deaths and why? (Additional buoys could be placed near active shipping ports such as Fernandina Beach and Brunswick.)
    • One way to reduce ship strikes and whale deaths is to relocate shipping lanes that are used for transportation, fishing, and the import and export of commercial goods. What factors or impacts would need to be considered as part of such a proposal? (Factors to consider might include economic impacts such as higher transportation or energy costs; transportation delays; and environmental impacts if other ports would need to be expanded or if new ports are needed.)


    6. Have students imagine future research.
    Ask students to think about research they would conduct to help save right whales. Explain that scientific data has helped lead to shipping lane changes, reduced ship speed requirements, and modifications to fixed fishing gear. Have them share their research ideas with the class.

    Informal Assessment

    Look at students’ Mapping Right Whales Data worksheets and assess their use of appropriate map elements.

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • plot data about whale calving grounds and human shipping lanes on a map
    • use appropriate map elements
    • analyze geographic information in map form

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Discussions
    • Hands-on learning

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Geography Standards

    • Standard 1:  How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information

    National Science Education Standards

  • What You’ll Need

    Materials You Provide

    • Colored pencils
    • Markers
    • Pens
    • Rulers

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
    • Plug-Ins: Flash

    Physical Space

    • Classroom


    • Large-group instruction
  • Background Information

    In the wild, organisms depend on their habitats to provide food, water, shelter, and other requirements for survival. Scientists studying wildlife use geographic data to record the location of critical resources, search for species, record places species are found, and analyze relationships to identify underlying patterns. Information about where species live, and their habitat use, is critical to preserving and protecting Earth’s biodiversity.


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    buoy Noun

    floating object anchored to the bottom of a body of water. Buoys are often equipped with signals.

    conserve Verb

    to save or use wisely.

    For Further Exploration



National Park Service