Ocean acidification is one of the processes threatening marine life and is included in the Coral Oceans and Frozen Oceans resources. This video shows two simple experiments for your classroom to show the process of ocean acidification and its impact on marine life…
The Incredible Edible Polyp activity is designed to be used with the Coral Oceans primary scheme of work, but has proved incredibly popular with all age groups and teachers alike. Here’s a video on how to make your own edible polyps with your class and a little twist on the classic anatomy lesson…
This video from the great team at One World One Ocean is a brilliant introduction to the ecosystem goods and services that the ocean provides and a summary of the potential and current human impact on our marine environment…
When ocean currents go bad and paleoclimatologists become Hollywood heros, the trailer for The Day After Tomorrow and indeed the opening 10 minutes of the film if you can get your hands on a copy of the film, make an exciting and extremely exaggerated introduction to the world of thermohaline circulation and the impact of the Arctic ice on the gulf stream…
Dr Helen Findlay helped with this great animation on ocean acidification by pupils at the Ridgeway School in Plymouth. We hope you meet a great range of plasticine characters who can help explain ocean acidification and its impacts to your classroom.
“There’s no point in doing oceanography if you don’t know what the temperature and salinity are doing. It sets the scene for all the other measurements and samples you take,” remarks Dr Helen Findlay.
We are out in the boat again on Kongsfjorden, the inlet running from the Atlantic Ocean to the Kongsbreen glacier and edging past the science village of Ny Ålesund.
It is easy to forget that the ocean is not just a massive bathtub, but contains different layers of water with different properties at different depths. Internal waves ripple through it and internal rivers run through our seas and oceans. There are two main instruments used for water sampling and they allow scientists to map the water column.
The first instrument is a niskin bottle. To the untrained eye, it looks like a length of drainpipe with elasticated ends. The niskin bottle has been used for sampling in the polar waters since 1910, when it was designed by Fritjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup.
The bottle is lowered into the cold dark waters of the fjord on the winch, ends held back, to the desired sampling depth. At each waypoint along the fjord, Helen would take samples at a variety of depths, surface, 15 metres, 25 metres, etc. When the niskin bottle is at the desired depth, a small brass weight, known as a ‘messenger’ is sent down the wire to snap the ends closed and capture a sample of seawater at specific depths.
This is then drawn back to the surface and carefully decanted into obsessively labelled bottles. Helen is studying the carbonate and nutrient (e.g. nitrates and phosphates) content of the water samples. Helen adds mercuric chloride to the samples, which kills any microorganisms, to ensure that the levels of carbonate do not change after sampling has take place.
The other instrument that is used is a CTD, standing for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth. Again lowered over the side of the boat using a winch, the CTD is used to create a profile of the water column and its important physical properties.
These samples and data sets will then be analysed later to give Helen and the team a better understanding of the waters of Kongsfjorden.
We head out on a small research vessel. Spray hits the deck riming instantly. Views slide past, slightly bleached in the head-on sun. Busyness and chatter. Helen and Alexey, two of the researchers at Ny Ålesund, labelling bottles for the water sampling that we’ll be collecting.
It will be good to get up further into the fjord beyond the vicinity of the base. A mini-expedition in itself. Small team, set purpose, easy camaraderie cut with reflective silence and concentration.
Normality and extremity nestle naturally. The cabin is warm. The table strewn with the necessities of our job. Radios, log-book, balaclavas, tea and biscuits.
The windows are salt sprayed and the pristine view grimy, but it will be a pleasure more so to step back into cold and clarity. A sharpness for all the senses.
The scene still resides in the realm of academia. Talk of funding applications, grant programmes, pan-European initiatives and studentships. For those who come here on a regular basis, this must seem normal, no distractions by the landscape. Maybe a pod of beluga would turn eyes and imaginations for a moment.
It’s their focus that is admirable. Single-minded, chirpy, rhythmic filling of sample bottles, obsessive labelling, routines whetted through hard-won experience. No complaining, no drama, a quiet everydayness about their actions.
This is how your newspaper science headlines are made. Through a series of measurements taken by very unassuming men and women going about their daily work in extreme places.
The head of the fjord is divided into sections, the crystal blue sharp-edged snout of the main glacier, peaks, ridges and cliffs. More bird life out here and the waters are gently rippled. Auks, fulmars and eiders scud along the waves, searching for food.
The rumble of the generator, a constant acoustic judder, even when stationary and engines off. There was a short time knocking against bergy bits, a mildly alarming thwack, but Trond, our skipper laughs and noses carefully on.
Alexey comes into the cabin every couple of minutes with a small sample bottle that is then hidden under a black polystyrene lid, Norwegian Polar Institute, Centre for Ice, Climate and Ecosystems emblazoned on the side.
Helen has her bottles. Small difficulties caused by the cold. The roll of insulating tape to bind up the samples has frozen and the plastic is now brittle and snaps. Almost impossible to peel a strip without it just becoming a collection of black plastic flecks under your fingernail. Trond looks to help and holds the tape in the warmth of the generator exhaust, but the problem persists.
The warmth of the cabin and the lull of the waters, allow me some much needed rest, and then it is out again, filming, photographing, recording. Making some sense of this extraordinary routine.
The science team are investigating the impact that ocean acidification might have on the krill population in the Arctic. Investigating small marine invertebrates at the bottom of the food chain is important as these lay the foundation for all the larger life in the marine environment here.
The first step for the research is to find the krill. Then in the next days and weeks they will be exposed to different pH levels, replicating potential future changes caused by ocean acidification. The first couple of trawls hadn’t been great, and the team need between 350-400 individuals to make sure that the sample size is large enough.
The support team at King’s Bay (the managing company for the science bases at Ny Alesund) had a boat ready at short notice, and so with Helen, Piero and Theresa, we headed out into the waters of Kongsfjorden. It was eerily calm, and still light from 6.30pm through to 9.30pm to search for krill. The first two trawls yielded a few, thirty at best, but the last has given the science team a decent batch. There is a fair bit of luck involved as no one on the boat was an excellent krill fisher.
The krill were carefully collected from the net and placed in sample boxes to be transported back to the lab. Over the next few days, we’ll be following the science experiments.
See Digital Explorer resource bank for more classroom resources and background on ocean acidification.
The Arctic is a long way away both physically and in the lands of the imagination. From the Digital Explorer offices in London to the science base at Ny Alesund is a one and a half day journey, flying via Oslo and then to the Svalbard archipelago and a night in the town of Longyearbyen.
At this time of year, with the Arctic sun not due to set again until the end of August, the journey is odder still. Growing up in temperate climates like the UK, I have etched on my mind that the North is cold and sunless, dark days and nights and endless winter. Likewise, the sun is something that rises in the East and sets in the West, transcribing a high arc through dawn, noon and dusk.
The flight from Oslo left towards nine in the evening and the sun had already set. But flying north over the land then sea, the sun got brighter and brighter as we neared midnight. This was so contrary to all my experience. Flying north towards the sun.
We look forward to having you with us on the #FrozenOceansLive journey as we share life and science with schools around the world.