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

  • Learn how scientists work in extreme environments and develop knowledge of science careers
  • Link the survey techniques used by students to the environmental and biological survey techniques used by the Catlin Arctic Survey scientists
  • Understand how to investigate the relationship between the health of organisms within an ecosystem and environmental factors such as pH

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. Ask them identify any links between pH and temperature.
  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.