We love Exploration! Click on one of the marine topics below to learn more.
This page contains additional web resources to encourage independent research. Refer to the grade notebooks to find videos for specific exercises.
Shellfish Ecosystem Services - info from Pacific Shellfish Institute 7th grade+
Encyclopedia of Puget Sound - species and ecology 5th grade+
Ancient Clam Gardens of Northwest Coast Article+Slideshow 6th grade+
Clam Garden Network - research on and construction of clam gardens 5th grade+
Shellfish Identification CLAM ID KEY
Clams and Water Quality 5th grade+
Australian shellfish ecosystems: Past distribution, current status and future direction - college level research article
What is Ocean Acidification (OA)?
Roughly 30% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. The CO2 being absorbed by water triggers a series of chemical reactions which results in an increase of hydrogen ions. This increases the water's acidity and causes carbonate ions to be relatively less abundant. It is estimated that by the end of the century the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150% more acidic. This would result in a pH that the oceans haven't seen in more than 20 million years.
Why do we care?
Carbonate ions are a key building block of seashells and coral skeletons. A decrease in carbonate ions makes building shells and other calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying organisms such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, corals, and calcareous plankton.
Local Data and Research
The Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) is a great database for oceanic data sets. Check out their information on ocean acidification in the Pacific northwest. Their explorer application is a great resource for looking at multiple real-time oceanic datasets, which includes local stations in Bellingham and Cherry Point.
Here is a power point about local research by Brooke Love (Shannon Point Marine Center) on OA and eelgrass.
NOAA Ocean Acidification Education - which includes lesson plans & activities for HS, MS, and ES.
NOAA Ocean Acidification Program - conducts wide ranging research and monitoring related to OA
PMEL Carbon Program - Research on OA and pteropods, a keystone shellfish
Science on a Sphere - areas of relative human impact on oceans
Science Buddies - Careers in Ocean Acidification
Videos for Students
Sustainable Seafood & Social Justice
Big Picture: Why do we care?
Some current seafood harvesting methods accidentally catch animals like sea turtles or damage habitats like coral reefs.
Current demand for seafood has caused fish to be harvested at a faster rate than the population’s reproduction can keep up with. This has caused many fish populations to decrease over time.
Bottom line: we have to harvest seafood sustainably in order to have tasty seafood for generations to come.
One of the key concerns with farmed fish is pollution. Net pens often contain densities of fish that are much higher than would occur naturally. Since they are in nets the fish require food inputs, and carnivorous fish like salmon require two pounds of wild fish as feed to grow one pound of salmon. Excess food, fish waste, as well as antibiotics and other chemicals being used flow through the cages into the surrounding ecosystem. This can cause algal blooms and other issues from the reduced water quality. One benefit of farmed fishing is that it can relieve pressure off of overharvested wild fish populations.
While farmed fishing may get a bad reputation for its ecological impact, farmed shellfish are a very different story. It has been estimated that 80% of the world’s wild oyster beds have been wiped out and now 95% of the world’s oyster consumption is being supplied by farmed oysters. Since the vast majority of oyster consumption is farmed, the sustainability of this industry is something worth thinking about.
One great thing about oysters is that they are filter-feeders. An oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, eating tiny particles, plankton, and organic matter found in the water column. Unlike fish which require food inputs and have the resulting waste which can pollute the environment, oysters can actually improve the water quality. This results in a sustainable food source, especially if you can buy locally to reduce your carbon footprint!
In recent years many human right issues have come to light from the seafood industry. While this is not included in most scientific determinations of sustainability, it is important to consider social justice issues when looking at the overall function of a fishery.
The Seafood Slavery Risk Tool produces a rating indicating the likelihood that human trafficking, forced labor and hazardous child labor are occurring on fishing boats in a specific fishery. The tool incorporates information from a variety of accurate, credible reports by authoritative institutions (U.S. government reports, EU and UN reports) and civil society organizations (universities, NGOs and media outlets) that are available in the public domain.
How to be a responsible consumer
Look for sustainability certifications when shopping
The Whatcom Food Network is also a great source to learn about the sustainability of our local foods.
The Shape of Life: Mollusc Explore many videos on phylum Mollusca, any soft-bodied invertebrate of the phylum Mollusca, usually wholly or partly enclosed in a calcium carbonate shell secreted by a soft mantle covering the body, and often possessing a single foot and a radula.