Overview: Life in the Open Ocean

Students gain a better understanding of ecosystems by identifying plankton and its role in these ecosystems. They discover that phytoplankton are at the base of food chains and food webs in marine ecosystems. Students understand that phytoplankton are eaten by zooplankton (herbivores and first-level consumers), which are eaten by small organisms, which, are in turn, eaten by larger organisms, such as sharks further up the food chain. Using Internet resources, students identify and list the islands’ most common types of sharks, recording relevant statistics prior to developing nearshore and open ocean energy pyramids. Students also note which animals are producers, consumers, or decomposers. Not much goes to waste in open ocean ecosystems. Students find that marine snow (excess organic materials, including dead animals, plants, sediments, and fecal matter) aggregate and sink toward the dark ocean bottom where food is scarce. They learn that some deep-water animals depend on marine snow for subsistence, and that some species migrate upward in search of food.

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animal, bacteria, consumers, decomposers, ecosystem, energy pyramid, interdependent, marine, marine snow, phytoplankton, plant, producers, recreational fishing, volcanic