Ocean acidification: Research in action

Lesson overview

The Arctic Ocean is known as a ‘sentinel system’. This is because ocean acidification is happening more rapidly in these cold waters. Students will learn about the research that is currently being undertaken in this remote region.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand why ocean acidification is happening at different rates in different places
  • Understand why scientists are going to the Arctic to study ocean acidification
  • Demonstrate understanding of the realities of remote field research
  • Understand that scientists have to make a case when they apply for funding

Lesson steps

  1. Where is ocean acidification happening? (10 mins)
    Use the diagrams (sea-surface temperature and difference in sea-surface pH) to explain the links between pH and temperature. Ask students to identify the areas where the change in ocean pH is fastest and discuss the reasons for this.
  2. The sentinel system (10 mins)
    Introduce the fact that the Arctic acts as a sentinel system for the rest of the planet’s oceans. Changes are happening here fastest and can show what the possible impacts could be for the rest of the oceans. Show the Channel 4 News video to introduce pupils to the work of the Catlin Arctic Survey.
  3. How is research conducted in the Arctic? (20 mins)
    Use the gallery to introduce pupils to a day in the life of an Arctic scientist.
  4. A day in the life (15 mins)
    Students demonstrate their learning by creating a presentation of a day in the life of an Arctic scientist. They can use a slideshow presentation, Twitter, a blog post or a storyboard for a short video.
  5. Plenary discussion (5 mins)
    Explain to students that scientists have to make a case to receive funding so they can conduct their work from research bodies such as NERC (Natural Environment Research Council). Ask your students if ocean acidification research should be a research priority and why.