There are not many parts of the world that remains to be explored - but in MAR-ECO your class can follow and take part in an online expedition! Below we give but a few examples of the kind of student projects that might be suitable for your class.
Projects on issues related to deep sea biology
- Construct your own deep-sea organism!
The marine environment affects and shapes various aspects of appearance and biology of its inhabitants. The deep sea habitat induces strange adaptations in body shape and morphology, techniques for acquiring food, vision and other sensory functions, bioluminescence, movement, encountering and choosing mate, spawning strategies, and much more.
By providing an example collection of typical adaptations in deep sea marine organisms and how they work to improve survival, students may be challenged/encouraged to construct their own deep-sea organism. Drawings of the hypothetical creature might be accompanied by explanations of the different adaptations that it has; e.g. “it has big eyes because it lives in a dark environment” and/or “when they meet the male attach themselves to the female and stay attached the rest of their life, because they so rarely meet that otherwise they would have a low number of offspring”.
Similar reflections may be made of what it eats, how it moves, how it mates, how old it gets, natural enemies, color, special abilities, and so on. This hypothetic species might also be assigned a scientific name and a placed in an existing taxonomic group, duly accompanied by a reasonable explanation for why it should be placed here.
- Help us name new species!
The survey will probably discover new species spread over several marine groups. The website might publish descriptions of the new species and explain how they differ from previously known species. Students may then be challenged/encouraged to offer suggestions for new species names along with their explanation for their choice of names. There may even be a prize for the best suggestion.
- Get acquainted with deep-sea organisms!
Choose an organism group (e.g. jellyfish, octopus, whale, fish, or plankton). Focus on an assortment of species within this group. Search for information on these species, make illustrations and write a report on their life in the deep-sea environment. Focus on environmental constraints like sea-water pressure, lack of light, diet and availability of food, predatory regime, buoyancy, temperature, lack of plants, etc. How do such factors tend to affect the way of life of the creatures in question? Upload written reports and drawings to the MAR-ECO website.
Other projects may revolve around the role that research and science has in our society
- How do we obtain new knowledge? Which methods are used in science? What is a typical day in the life of a scientist like? Draw, or make a cartoon strip of a scientist that is occupied with his favorite activity.
- The scientific procedure: formulating of hypotheses based on current theory, investigations, production of results, interpretation of findings, and communication of new discoveries.
- Do we really need to do as much research as possible? Would it be better if we left the deep sea alone? What value should we put on new scientific findings and discoveries? How can they be used? How does scientific research work as a foundation for political decisions e.g. regarding management of natural resources? Can research be the first step on a path leading to future exploitation of currently unknown marine resources? May there be a potential conflict between nations over management of natural resources in international waters? Do we know enough of the life in the deep sea to make sound decisions regarding management of the deep sea marine resources?
- Should scientific results be free for all to use? If not, who should own the scientific results, and who should decide what their use should be? Can you think of conflicts of interests in relation to exploitation of resources and scientific findings between nations, between large corporations and people in general, or between people today and people in the future? Who should fund scientific research? What are the ups and downs of private vs. public funding, civil vs. military research, national vs. international funding? Who should decide the direction of the research, i.e. what research areas should be prioritized? Is it more important to do research on projects that we know beforehand will have a high likelihood of economical pay-off, or are benefits of gathering knowledge in its own enough to justify expensive research projects?
- One option could be to present interactive projects. Based on researchers’ models that simulate the deep sea environment, students could be given the opportunity to manipulate variables like temperature, velocity and direction of ocean streams, predator pressure, reproduction rate, migration patterns, pollution rate, food availability, volcanic activity, and so on. This could produce various scenarios with different implications for various organisms. It would also in an excellent manner demonstrate for students how abiotic and biotic parameters interact to pose ecological constraints, and how these might affect the life of members of an ecosystem.
Upon uploading of project reports, the reports will remain accessible at the website. They may then be the source of comments by other schools, researchers or other interested parties.