Oceanography > Teaching Activities > Deep water circulation and chemistry jigsaw

Deep water circulation and chemistry jigsaw

Michele LaVigne, Bowdoin College
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 29, 2013


This activity is designed to introduce students to the way in which thermohaline circulation and the biological pump influence the distribution of nutrients, oxygen, carbon, and radiocarbon in the Atlantic vs. Pacific Oceans.



This activity has been used in a 200-level undergraduate marine biogeochemistry course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should (at minimum) know:
  1. how to interpret vertical profiles
  2. how photosynthesis and respiration impact nitrate, phosphate, oxygen, and carbon.
  3. what radiocarbon is (although I also write the equation for delta 14C on the board for this exercise so the students understand the units on the figures).

While these are the basic concepts students could know going into this exercise, my students were also familiar with the biological pump and many had covered thermohaline circulation in other courses. However, this activity is the first time we put the two together in this class with respect to chemistry.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is introduced in the second week of class towards the end of the unit on general oceanography background (currents, sources and sinks, box models, etc.).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

thermohaline circulation, the biological pump, vertical and horizontal distribution of nutrients, carbon, oxygen, water mass ages and radiocarbon.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

A description of the activity is included in the supporting word document.
Student Handouts for Deep water circulation and chemistry jigsaw (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 102kB May29 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Teaching notes are included in the supporting document.


I make sure students arrive at the key points by leading a group discussion at the end of the activity and reviewing these points in the next class meeting.

References and Resources

Resources are listed in the supporting document attached.

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