How do scientists use classification in coral habitats?

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Lesson overview

This lesson helps students identify the different habitat zones on the coral reef and describe the differences in the environmental conditions. During their second dive students develop their identification skills through surveying the reef and identifying different coral types. Students draw conclusions about the reasons for the variety and abundance of coral species across the reef.

Lesson outcomes

  • Recall the scale of the Great Barrier Reef compared with the smallest part of the living coral
  • Identify different habitat zones and describe the differences in conditions
  • Use a key to identify coral types
  • Use survey techniques to compare coral distribution in two different habitat zones
  • Understand how coral affects and is affected by its environment

Lesson steps

  1. How big is the reef and how small is a polyp? (10 mins)
    Students explore the different scales within the coral reef ecosystem and sort different corals from smallest to largest.
  2. What smaller habitats exist within a coral ecosystem? (10 mins)
    Students discuss and compare coral types with the conditions experienced on different parts of the reef.
  3. How can coral types be identified? (10 mins)
    Students identify corals using a simple coral key and understand that for exact species recognition genetic testing is required.
  4. How are coral types distributed on different parts of the reef? (20 mins)
    Students complete a coral survey using actual images taken using the SVII camera.
  5. How are coral ecosystems varied? (10mins)
    Students complete their dive log to reflect on how and why coral ecosystems are so varied.
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