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Coral Bleaching: A White Hot Problem
http://www2.vims.edu/bridge/DATA.cfm?Bridge_Location=archive0406.html

Laura Rose, Lisa Ayers Lawrence, Bridge Project - NOAA Sea Grant and National Marine Educators Association

This teaching activity addresses environmental stresses on corals. Students assess coral bleaching using water temperature data from the NOAA National Data Buoy Center. Students learn about the habitat of corals, the stresses on coral populations, and the impact of increased sea surface temperatures on coral reefs. In a discussion section, the connection between coral bleaching and global warming is drawn.

Activity takes about 60 minutes

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Climate Literacy
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Individual organisms survive within specific ranges of temperature, precipitation, humidity, and sunlight. Organisms exposed to climate conditions outside their normal range must adapt or migrate, or they will perish.
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Changes in climate conditions can affect the health and function of ecosystems and the survival of entire species. The distribution patterns of fossils show evidence of gradual as well as abrupt extinctions related to climate change in the past.
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Growing evidence shows that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to human-caused global warming. Some changes resulting from human activities have decreased the capacity of the environment to support various species and have substantially reduced ecosystem biodiversity and ecological resilience.
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change. Animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses will migrate to new areas with favorable climate conditions. Infectious diseases and certain species will be able to invade areas that they did not previously inhabit.
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2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:A) Organisms, populations, and communities
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A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
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Human activities, such as reducing the amount of forest cover, increasing the amount and variety of chemicals released into the atmosphere, and intensive farming, have changed the earth's land, oceans, and atmosphere. Some of these changes have decreased the capacity of the environment to support some life forms.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Solutions and suggestions of how each student can make a difference is offered.
  • Activity needs a hook to get students interested - ideally, a powerpoint presentation or some beautiful pictures of coral reefs.

About the Science

  • Well referenced activity with links to NOAA animations and other very useful resources for educators and students about the use of real data.
  • Activity asks students to build a trend from only 4 years of data - that is not scientific best practice - the discussion addresses this issue but nevertheless, it would be better to ask students to use more data points.
  • Comment from scientist: The influence of acidity of the ocean on the coral populations should be introduced by the educator. I think this is a good activity for students to learn about coral reefs, and also practice skills including interpreting graphical data. I really like that the activity uses real data. There are good links to other websites with more detailed information and references.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity uses real data to draw conclusions about coral bleaching. The graphs are clear and easy to read. A clear path to accomplish objectives.
  • Well designed guiding questions to interpret the graphs and think through the scientific process, and very interesting guiding questions for the discussion.
  • Additional materials in the activity offer opportunities for students to learn the concepts in different ways.
  • Students are given the data and then answer questions; no real inquiry - it could be hard to engage students in reading graphs and answering questions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All material is readily available for educators. Activity is ready to use.

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