Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, humans have only explored 5 percent of the bodies of saline water that make up the world’s hydrosphere. When high school students complete projects about the ocean, they raise awareness about one of the planet’s most integral ecosystems.
Marine Mammal Monitoring
Using data collected by NOAA, a student can track the population, migration patterns and trends of marine mammals like harbor porpoises, sea lions, seals and whales. For the project, a student uses a map to show where a marine mammal typically travels during a year and explains whether the pattern follows a particular ocean current, temperature or another factor in the environment, such as prey. By creating a graph, a teen demonstrates the rise or fall of a specie’s population as a whole or in specific geographic regions. If big differences in data develop from one year to the next, the student should offer a hypothesis about the differences or explain the reasons provided by scientists.
Hurricanes and Ocean Temperatures
Hurricanes can form over warm ocean waters. For a high school project, a student can determine whether warmer waters in the Atlantic Ocean yield hurricanes that are larger or stronger. To test his hypothesis, a student should use historical hurricane data so he can track selected hurricanes on a map and record information about their paths, longevity, wind speed and air pressure. The student then uses information about a hurricane’s path to determine the water temperatures by looking at the historic temperature data and climate summaries collected by area buoys on the National Data Buoy Center website. By comparing the information about a hurricane’s strength and the temperature of the ocean’s surface, then student can see whether his hypothesis is correct.
The Effects of Warm Water
A science class might teach students that global warming can cause icebergs to melt, ocean waters to warm and ocean levels to rise. To have a better idea about the trends in ocean temperatures and their effects, a student can make a table that shows the average annual temperature of different oceans during the past 25 years to see whether any significant changes can be found. By collecting samples of ocean water and using a hydrometer to test the salinity of the water and a pH kit to measure the pH levels, the student can determine whether warmer temperatures will make a difference in the levels. The first measurements come directly from the ocean as the “control” or base measurements. The teen then repeats the tests when the water is at room temperature and heated to different temperatures. If the salinity levels and pH levels change with temperature, the student explains how warmer water temperatures may affect marine life.
The oceans contain canyons, mountains and other geological formations that are similar to the ones found above water. For a science project, a student can explain how oceanographers divide the ocean into different zones according the penetration of sunlight and offers a look at the areas beyond the sunlit zone. By explaining how geological events, the hydrologic cycle and currents shaped the oceans over time, the teen can help others gain a better understanding about formations on the ocean floor and sea life that live in the deeper zones.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Ocean
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: National Marine Mammal Laboratory
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Marine Mammal Species, Harbor Porpoise
- Unisys: Atlantic Tropical Storm Tracking by Year
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: National Data Buoy Center
- The Museum of Science: Looking at the Sea
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