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.
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).
2 hrs 45 mins View this Lesson
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.
2 hrs 35 mins View this Lesson
Students analyze 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.
3 hrs 40 mins View this Lesson
Students are introduced to the idea that humans have enormous impacts on marine ecosystems and resources, and explore the stakeholders involved.
1 hr 40 mins View this Lesson
Students learn about three examples of human impacts on marine life: migration patterns and shipping, algal blooms and water chemistry, and marine debris. Some of these impacts are due to human activity in the ocean, and some impacts on the ocean are due to human activity on land.
7 hrs 10 mins View this Lesson
Students build on their knowledge of individual impacts on the ocean to see how the whole system can react to threats and changes. They examine ways in which human actions throw marine ecosystems out of balance, explore the concept of how impacts can build, and review their understandings of ecosystem dynamics.
1 hr 50 mins View this Lesson
Students explore issues related to fisheries sustainability and simulate fish monitoring methods commonly used by scientists and resource managers.
4 hrs 30 mins View this Lesson
Students explore Marine Protected Areas on an interactive map and compare and contrast three case studies. They learn how the MPA classification system works in the United States, apply that system to example scenarios, and create case studies of their own.
4 hrs 45 mins View this Lesson
Students read a case study and debate the pros and cons of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the region. Then they select a Marine Protected Area and develop and present a management plan for it.
12 hrs View this Lesson
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry abiotic Adjective
lacking or absent of life.
a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.
Encyclopedic Entry: adaptation anthropogenic disturbance Noun
changes to the natural environment caused by human activity.
apex predator Noun
species at the top of the food chain, with no predators of its own. Also called an alpha predator or top predator.
aphotic zone Noun
the deepest ocean zone, below 914 meters (3,000 feet). Also known as the midnight or bathypelagic zone.
layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.
Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere autotroph Noun
organism that can produce its own food and nutrients from chemicals in the atmosphere, usually through photosynthesis or chemosynthesis.
Encyclopedic Entry: autotroph biodiversity Noun
all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.
Encyclopedic Entry: biodiversity biogeography Noun
study of the spatial patterns of living organisms.
process in which the concentration of a substance increases as it passes up the food chain.
living organisms, and the energy contained within them.
process by which pharmaceutical companies buy or claim genetic resources from native species of a developing country.
biotic factor Noun
effect or impact of an organism on its environment.
fish or any other organisms accidentally caught in fishing gear.
case study Noun
form of problem-based learning, where the teacher presents a situation that needs a resolution. The learner is given details about the situation, often in a historical context. The stakeholders are introduced. Objectives and challenges are outlined. This is followed by specific examples and data, which the learner then uses to analyze the situation, determine what happened, and make recommendations.
choropleth map Noun
representation of statistical data, such as population, over a specific area using colors or patterns to represent types or intensity of data.
collapsed fishery Noun
fishing industry where the number of fish has been severely reduced or depleted. Also called a depleted fishery.
relationship between organisms where one organism benefits from the association while not harming the other.
common name Noun
non-scientific name of a species, or what the organism is usually called.
coral reef Noun
rocky ocean features made up of millions of coral skeletons.
steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.
Encyclopedic Entry: current dead zone Noun
area of low oxygen in a body of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: dead zone decomposer Noun
organism that breaks down dead plant material.
separation of a chemical compound into elements or simpler compounds.
organism that consumes dead plant material.
ecological succession Noun
gradual, predictable changes to an ecosystem or habitat.
community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.
Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem eutrophication Noun
build-up of sediment and organic matter in bodies of water, which may cause a change in the productivity of the ecosystem.
industry or occupation of harvesting fish, either in the wild or through aquaculture.
food chain Noun
group of organisms linked in order of the food they eat, from producers to consumers, and from prey, predators, scavengers, and decomposers.
Encyclopedic Entry: food chain food pyramid Noun
diagram of a healthy diet that shows the number of servings of each food group a person should eat every day.
food web Noun
all related food chains in an ecosystem. Also called a food cycle.
Encyclopedic Entry: food web Great Pacific Garbage Patch Noun
area of the North Pacific Ocean where currents have trapped huge amounts of debris, mostly plastics.
Encyclopedic Entry: Great Pacific Garbage Patch habitat Noun
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat harmful algal bloom (HAB) Noun
rapid growth of algae that can threaten an aquatic environment by reducing the amount of oxygen in the water, blocking sunlight, or releasing toxic chemicals.
organism that cannot make its own nutrients and must rely on other organisms for food.
all the Earth's water in the ground, on the surface, and in the air.
Encyclopedic Entry: hydrosphere hydrothermal vent Noun
opening on the seafloor that emits hot, mineral-rich solutions.
condition of not having enough oxygen in a substance, such as water or blood.
kelp forest Noun
underwater habitat filled with tall seaweeds known as kelp.
marine debris Noun
garbage, refuse, or other objects that enter the coastal or ocean environment.
Encyclopedic Entry: marine debris marine ecosystem Noun
community of living and nonliving things in the ocean.
Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Noun
(1999) California law passed to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along the California coast.
marine park Noun
part of the ocean protected by the government to preserve a threatened ecosystem or habitat. Marine parks are often recreational areas.
Encyclopedic Entry: marine park marine protected area (MPA) Noun
area of the ocean where a government has placed limits on human activity.
marine reserve Noun
part of the ocean where no fishing, hunting, drilling, or other development is allowed.
Encyclopedic Entry: marine reserve marine sanctuary Noun
part of the ocean protected by the government to preserve its natural and cultural features while allowing people to use and enjoy it in a sustainable way.
Encyclopedic Entry: marine sanctuary mark-recapture method Noun
way of monitoring animal population. A random group of animals is captured, marked with a tag or band, and released before another random group from the same population is captured. Some of the animals from the second group may have been tagged previously. Also called sight-resight, band recovery, and capture-mark-recapture.
tiny organism, usually a bacterium.
movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.
relationship between organisms of different species, in which both organisms benefit from the association.
role and space of a species within an ecosystem.
no-take zone Noun
area set aside by the government where all extractive activity, including fishing, mining, and drilling, is not allowed.
Encyclopedic Entry: no-take zone nutrient Noun
substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.
Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient ocean Noun
large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: ocean ocean basin Noun
depression in the Earth's surface located entirely beneath the ocean.
ocean circulation Noun
worldwide movement of water (currents) in the ocean.
person who studies the ocean.
open ocean Noun
area of the ocean that does not border land.
to harvest aquatic life to the point where species become rare in the area.
chemical element with the symbol O, whose gas form is 21% of the Earth's atmosphere.
relationship between organisms where one organism (a parasite) lives or feeds on the other, usually causing harm.
process by which plants turn water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into water, oxygen, and simple sugars.
microscopic organism that lives in the ocean and can produce its own food through photosynthesis.
animal that hunts other animals for food.
animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.
organism on the food chain that can produce its own energy and nutrients. Also called an autotroph.
recovering fishery Noun
fishing industry where catches are increasing after having been reduced or depleted.
natural or man-made lake.
Encyclopedic Entry: reservoir salinity Noun
scientific name Noun
the name, usually in Latin, of an organism's genus and species.
shifting baseline Noun
slow changes in the standard characteristics of an ecosystem, which cause the standards to be adjusted, such as overfishing leading to a lower "baseline" estimate of the fish population. Also called a sliding baseline.
spillover effect Noun
process by which fish are protected within a no-take zone, then produce more offspring and eventually migrate into nearby, unprotected areas.
person or organization that has an interest or investment in a place, situation or company.
base of hard material on which a non-moving organism grows. Also called substratum.
use of resources in such a manner that they will never be exhausted.
sustainable fishery Noun
industry of harvesting fish or shellfish that can be maintained without damaging the ecosystem or fish population.
sustainable seafood Noun
fish, shellfish, and other aquatic organisms harvested from fish farms or fisheries that can be maintained without damaging the ecosystem.
two distinct organisms living together for the benefit of one or both.
degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.
Encyclopedic Entry: temperature tide Noun
rise and fall of the ocean's waters, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun.
Encyclopedic Entry: tide toxic phytoplankton Noun
aquatic organism that produces chemicals that, in large amounts, can be deadly to plants and animals.
trophic level Noun
one of three positions on the food chain: autotrophs (first), herbivores (second), and carnivores and omnivores (third).
process by which currents bring cold, nutrient-rich water to the ocean surface.
Encyclopedic Entry: upwelling wave Noun
moving swell on the surface of water.