National Geographic Education
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Marine Ecology, Human Impacts, & Conservation

Explore the Science of Marine Protected Areas

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Photograph by Naomi Blinick
As part of National Geographic Society’s Ocean Initiative, National Geographic Education is working to help teachers like you educate your students about the importance of ocean health and the establishment and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

National Geographic Education has developed a series of teacher-tested classroom activities for you to use in your science courses, specifically to incorporate within your high school biology curriculum to teach students about marine ecology, human impacts on the ocean, and ocean conservation.

This collection of activities invites you to use current classroom technologies, videos, photo galleries, and maps to give students a clear view of the health and importance of the ocean. These activities provide you with tools that help students take effective notes, use graphic organizers, and formulate opinions about ocean-related environmental issues. This project-based learning experience culminates with students using their new knowledge about marine ecology and human impacts on the ocean to create and propose a management plan for a Marine Protected Area.

This unit was originally developed for the National Teacher Leadership Academy (NTLA) 2010 Summer Geography Institute.
  • Photo: Fish swim in a circle

    Lesson 1: The World Ocean

    Students investigate the interconnectedness of the ocean and Earth's physical and human systems through videos, discussions, writing, and mapping. They make personal connections to their own lives and are introduced to the concept of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

  • Photo: Racoon Butterflyfish swim in a group

    Lesson 2: Marine Ecosystems and Biodiversity

    Students explore major marine ecosystems by locating them on maps. Students use marine examples to learn about energy transfer through food chains and food webs. They discuss how food webs can illustrate the health and resilience of an ecosystem.

  • Photo: Fish being cleaned by shrimp

    Lesson 3: Symbiotic Relationships in Marine Ecosystems

    Students watch videos to make observations about species, populations, and communities of organisms and discuss their symbiotic relationships. Then they create a hypothetical marine ecosystem and describe the adaptive, trophic, and symbiotic relationships between the biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem.


National Geographic Education

All About MPAs

  • Marine Protected Areas

    Read this article for an introduction to the types and goals of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

  • Photo: Sea turtle swims in a coral reef.

    marine protected area

    Read an encyclopedic entry about sections of the ocean where governments have placed limits on human activity.

Encyclopedic Entries

Find ocean-related entries in our encyclopedia of geography, science, and social studies concepts.

Case Studies

  • Photo: School of fish swims near the surface of the ocean.

    Galapagos Marine Reserve

    The Galapagos Marine Reserve is one of the largest and most biologically diverse marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world.

  • Photo: Beach surrounded by cliffs.

    Point Sur State Marine Reserve

    With its 1,770-kilometer (1,100-mile) coastline, it is no surprise California has one of the most extensive networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the United States.

  • Photo: Sharks swimming among fishes in a coral reef.

    Cocos Island National Park

    Remote and pristine, Cocos Island National Park sits in the Pacific Ocean, 550 kilometers (340 miles) from Costa Rica.

Marine Explorers

  • Photo: Sylvia Earle

    Sylvia Earle

    Read an interview with this famous oceanographer and National Geographic explorer.

  • Photo: Enric Sala, marine ecologist

    Enric Sala

    Read about what inspires marine ecologist and National Geographic Ocean Fellow Enric Sala.

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