EARTH 540
Essentials of Oceanography

Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs

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Let's take some time to reflect on what we've just covered on coral reefs! Here you may want to think about how you would help students understand the principles underlying the conclusion that corals are in trouble because of increasing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. The underlying chemical equilibria are complex, but must be understood at some level in order to be able to analyze and accept the scientific conclusions. Who or what are we if we take others word alone for such things, or dismiss it because we cannot understand it?

 

We want you to read and study the recent work by reporter Craig Welsh and the following two accessible and (reasonably) short semi-technical papers about the problem of "ocean acidification" and its consequences:

The Seattle Times (don't forget to click on some of the "Sea Change Stories" in the right margin.  They are well done and visually stunning!)

Kleypas and Langdon (2003) Conference Proceedings Summary

Doney (2006) Scientific American

These should give you a feeling for the background, chemical principles and uncertainties in drawing conclusions about the developing trend in ocean acidification.

Activity 3: Simplifying the Problem

For this activity, let's use a common classroom technique to explain the complex issue of ocean acidification.  Activity 3 should be posted to the discussion board for Lesson 7

  1. Become an organism (your choice...urchin, starfish, seagull, something else?) that is affected by the issue of ocean acidification (either directly or indirectly).  Write a 750 word (or so...) letter to humans to fix the problem.  Clearly some of these concepts are complex, so do your best to simplify them without losing the science.  Make it fun and stay in character.  Your letter should include and understanding of:
    • human/atmospheric contributions to ocean acidification
    • scientific process of acidification 
    • organisms affected (with statistics/data)
    • potential consequences
    • possible solutions
  2. Comment on 2-3 of your colleagues' posts with a twist!  When you comment, stay in character as the organism you chose for part "A" (please remind us who/what you are when you comment so we have context for your comments).  Ask a question, argue a point, elaborate on some evidence, etc.  

See the grading rubric for specifics on how this assignment will be graded.