"Fabulous! The NOAA staff were engaging and energetic. They had my class on the edge of their seats and eager to participate. They had students up and moving around to complete hands on activities and play games to further their understanding of bioacoustics. They were very knowledgeable as well as savvy with classroom management. A great experience!"

-Falmouth Teacher

Lesson Topics


students measuring spectrogram  blind find activity  students listening to sounds
What is bioacoustics?

K-2 Lesson
Plan

3-5 Lesson
Plan

Lesson
Slides

"Whose Sound
Is It?" Species
Activity Cards

Whale Morse
Code Activity
Strips

     Light is very limited in the ocean habitat. Below the photic zone (the depth to which sunlight is able to penetrate) it is very dark. For marine mammals, however, this vast 3-dimensional world is far from dark. The ocean is illuminated by sound, which travels much farther than light underwater. The sounds of waves and storms at the surface, of earthquakes and underwater landslides, of schooling fish, and of other marine mammals fill the underwater world.

     Marine mammals use these natural sounds and sounds that they produce for just about every aspect of their lives. For example, ice seals use the sounds of ice cracking and sounds transmitting from the air above to locate their breathing holes in the ice. Baleen whales use the sounds of waves crashing on the shoreline to help in navigation during their migration. Some whales use echolocation to locate prey or detect objects. All marine mammals use sound to communicate with each other.

     In this lesson, students will be learning about the importance of sound to marine mammals. They will explore how information can be gained from sound, familiarize themselves with the sounds made by various species of marine mammals, and discover how hard it is to communicate when there is a lot of anthropogenic (man-made) noise. They will see how humans have affected marine mammal acoustics and what they can do to make a difference.

      This lesson meets the following Next Generation Science Standards:
  • Grades K-2:
    1. K-ESS3-3 - Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on other living things in the local environment. This lesson introduces students to the Right Whale Listening Network and encourages students to think of ways to minimize their impact on local waters and marine mammal species.
    2. 1-LS1-2 - Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive. This lesson encourages the students to explore why marine mammals rely so heavily on sound and how that enables them to communicate a variety of information to other individuals as well as their offspring.
    3. 2-LS4-1 - Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. This lesson allows the students to observe the various adaptations marine mammals possess that allow them to send and receive sound much more efficiently than many terrestrial mammals. They can also make comparisons between marine mammal species that may be found at different locations in the water column.
  • Grades 3-5:
    1. 3-LS2-1 - Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive. In this lesson students explore the importance of a whale pod and how bioacoustics is an integral part in pod health.
    2. 4-LS1-2 - Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways. In this lesson students discover why sound is so important in the ocean and leads to resultant behavior in marine mammals.
    3. 5-ESS3-1 - Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment. Students will discover how sound can be used to monitor local whale species as well as protect them from ship strikes.

Resources

What is a food web?

K-5 Lesson
Plan

Lesson
Slides

"My What Big
Teeth" Activity

Food Webs
Images Activity

     Food webs are dynamic and complex. Species in each trophic or feeding level rely on their prey base and in turn are critically important to the organisms that feed on them. Energy travels through the food web and steadily decreases with each trophic level it passes through as some is used for movement, some is used in digestion, some food is not digested, etc. In general, as you move through the food web, each successive higher level of consumer is made up of fewer, larger organisms. Most marine mammals are top level consumers, meaning that they are at the end (or close to the end) of their food chain in the web. This means that anything that affects their prey or food will affect the numbers and health of those specific marine mammals. Marine mammals can also be affected by competition with other species for the same resources Overfishing, changes in prey numbers and distribution in response to climate change, and other factors affect the food web.

     In this lesson, students will learn about the marine food web and trophic levels and be able to place marine mammals in their proper place on the food web. They will explore the relationship between all the organisms on the web and hypothesize how impacts on one species in the web can impact the whole food web. They will discuss how humans affect the food web and what they can do to make a difference.

      This lesson meets the following Next Generation Science Standards:
  • Grades K-2:
    1. K-LS1-1 - Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. In this lesson students are asked to compare plant and animal needs and where their energy requirements place them in the food web.
    2. K-ESS3-1 - Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live. In this lesson students build both a terrestrial and ocean food web and explore the different feeding strategies employed by marine mammals as their habitat affects the location of "plants".
    3. 2-LS4-1 - Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. Students compare and contrast what they know of terrestrial plants and animals with plankton and marine mammal samples and relate that to habitat information.
  • Grades 3-5:
    1. 5-LS2-1 - Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment. In this lesson students make a model, marine food web.
    2. 5-PS3-1 - Use models to describe that energy in animals' food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun. Students construct a food web and investigate how the suns energy travel's through that web.

Resources

     
What types of adaptations do marine mammals have and how are they dealing with climate change?

K-2 Lesson
Plan

3-5 Lesson
Plan

K-2 Lesson
Slides

3-5 Lesson
Slides

Human/Dolphin
Skeleton
Worksheet

Adaptations Activity
Picture Sheets

     In order to survive in their particular habitat, all animals must have structures and behaviors that enable them to obtain food and water, move, maintain body temperature, and attract or find mates. The specific characteristics that an animal possesses which help it survive are called adaptations. Adaptations can be structural (e.g. a bird's beak) or behavioral (e.g. migration patterns).

     The current climate is gradually warming at a faster rate than would naturally be expected. This warming trend is mainly due to burning fossil fuels for human energy use, which in turn release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Driving our cars with gasoline, heating our house with oil, and coal powered fascilities are some of the many ways we're adding carbon dioxide to Earth's atmosphere. These gasses are heat-trapping, creating a blanket effect around the earth which traps reflected solar energy and steadily warms the earth's atmosphere as well as the world's oceans.

     In this lesson, students will learn about adaptations and habitat. Specifically, they will explore the physical constraints of the marine habitat and what adaptations marine mammals have that enable them to survive there. They will learn about climate change and how that might influence marine mammal habitat usage. They will learn how human choices can have impacts on marine mammals and what they can do to make a difference.

      This lesson meets the following Next Generation Science Standards:
  • Grades K-2:
    1. K-LS1-1 - Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. In this lesson students explore the marine habitat and the adaptations required by mammals to survive there.
    2. 2-LS4-1 - Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. In this lesson students compare and contrast marine and terrestrial habitats and then observe various marine mammals species and compare their adaptations to those found on land.
  • Grades 3-5:
    1. 3-LS4-3 - Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. In this lesson students analyze various marine mammals and discover the adaptations that make them best suited for the marine environment.
    2. 4-LS1-1 - Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. In this lesson students compare the external and internal anatomy of a human and harbor porpoise and relate it to the animal's habitat.
    3. 4-ESS3-1 - Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment. In this lesson students learn about fossil fuel consumption and climate change.

Resources

          
What marine mammals do you see in Cape Cod?

K-2 Lesson
Plan

3-5 Lesson
Plan

K-2 Lesson
Slides

3-5 Lesson
Slides

Right Whale
ID Activity

Dichotomous Key
Activity

Dichotomous Key
Pictures

     All mammals: breathe air, give birth to live young, nurse their young, are warm-blooded, and have hair (baby whales and dolphins actually have small hairs on their rostrums (nose) when born and it eventually sheds away leaving behind small follicles). Marine mammals have a range or territory where you can expect to find them and many species migrate over long distances each year. Some whales feed in polar waters, and travel thousands of miles to warm water areas to have their young.

     In this lesson, students will learn to distinguish mammals from other animals and then separate marine mammals from other mammals. They will discuss what constitutes their "backyard" and how that compares to the "backyard" of a North Atlantic right whale. They will learn about the species of cetaceans (whale, dolphin, porpoise) and pinnipeds (seal, sea lion, walrus) that can be found off Cape Cod and experiment with marine mammal photo identification. They will discover how humans impact the marine environment and marine mammals in their local area and what they can do to make a difference.

      This lesson meets the following Next Generation Science Standards:
  • Grades K-2:
    1. K-ESS3-1 - Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live. This lesson uses google earth to illustrate how the students meet their needs and how local marine mammal species cover a larger geographic area to meet their needs.
    2. 1-LS3-1 - Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents. In this lesson students discover how individual North Atlantic right whales can be photo identified by comparing their callosity patterns.
    3. 2-LS4-1 - Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. In this lesson students compare the species found in their "backyard" (both aquatic and terrestrial).
  • Grades 3-5:
    1. 3-LS3-1 - Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms. In this lesson students discover how individual North Atlantic right whales can be photo identified by comparing their callosity patterns.
    2. 5-ESS3-1 - Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment. In this lesson students participate in North Atlantic right whale photo id and discover how this monitoring is critical to this endangered species' recovery.

Resources

     
What threats do marine mammals face?
     Many marine mammal populations are decreasing to critical levels largely due to human actions including; accidental capture in fishing gear (entanglement and bycatch), habitat destruction, pollution, commercial hunting, increase in ocean noise, increase in vessel traffic, and ship strikes. In addition, climate change is having an impact as prey moves, habitat changes, sea ice decreases, sea levels rise, etc. Scientists are looking at the complex relationship between all these factors to see what changes can be made to help marine mammal populations recover.

     In this lesson, students will learn about ship strikes, marine debris, entanglement, and the various ways marine mammals are impacted by human activities. They will explore how pollution can impact a marine mammal's ability to locate food and they will identify animals that have been threatened in various ways. They will discuss how humans impact the marine environment and marine mammals and what they can do to make a difference.

      This lesson is currently under construction. Please stay tuned.

Resources

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(File Modified May. 16 2017)