Glencoe World Geography, 2005
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Chapter 2: The Earth
"Ocean Color"

Students have read about Earth's place in the solar system; its structure and composition; and its continents, landforms, and bodies of water. In this lesson they will learn about the SeaWiFS Project, NASA's use of satellite color imagery to monitor the health and chemistry of the world's oceans.

Lesson Description
Students will access information from NASA's SeaWiFS Project: The Wild Blue Wonder Web site to learn about the SeaWiFS Project to monitor environmental and climatic changes in the oceans and atmosphere. Students will answer four questions and then apply what they have learned to create a written summary in support of continued funding for the project.

Instructional Objectives

  1. Students will be able to explain the purpose of the SeaWiFS Project and the principles upon which it operates.
  2. Students will be able to list key points that support the continuation of the SeaWiFS Project.

Applied Content Standards
Standard 8: The geographically informed person knows and understands the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface.

Student Web Activity Answers

  1. We rely on the oceans for food, water, transportation, recreation, minerals, and energy. Changes in ocean currents cause changes in global weather patterns that can cause droughts, floods, and storms.
  2. Ocean color tells us about the health and chemistry of the ocean and can indicate areas that have been poisoned by pollutants. Color can be used to measure ocean productivity, temperature, and fertility.
  3. Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that float freely in the surface water of the oceans. They absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others, and therefore the color of the ocean in an area is affected by the amount of phytoplankton concentrated on the surface.
  4. Phytoplankton are at the beginning of the food chain. As these small plants grow and multiply, small fish and other animals eat them. Larger animals then eat these smaller ones. Where the ocean has been poisoned by pollutants, there is little phytoplankton, destroying the first link in the food chain. This would affect the fishing industry and ultimately could affect the amount of fish available for human consumption.
  5. Answers may vary. Possible answers could include: phytoplankton are the beginning of the food chain; fish feed in areas abundant with phytoplankton; the ocean fishing industry finds good fishing spots by looking at ocean color images to locate areas rich in phytoplankton; SeaWiFS helps pinpoint areas in the ocean where pollution is destroying fishing grounds.

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Glencoe World Geography, 2005
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