EarthLabs for Educators > Climate and the Carbon Cycle > Lab 6: Oceans-Carbon Sink or Source?

Lab 6: Oceans-Carbon Sink or Source?

The lab activity described here was developed by Candace Dunlap of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

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Investigation Summary and Learning Objectives

Image caption.Image source: Nature

How does carbon get into the ocean, and what are the physical and biological processes that move it through the ocean once it is there? Students zoom in on another portion of the carbon cycle to learn how it works, and what changes are resulting from the surprisingly large increase in the level of carbon that is accumulating in the world's oceans.

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:

For more information about the TOPIC, read the section titled Background Information under Additional Resources below


Activity Overview

In Part A: Students learn how the oceans "absorb" carbon by considering two ocean processes that "pump" carbon dioxide into the oceans: the physical carbon pump and the biological carbon pump. They then view an animation that shows them what happens to carbon once it becomes part of the ocean biological pump. They view a power point on the ocean's biological pump and view a short animation.

In Part B: Students explore the role of phytoplankton in oceanic uptake of carbon in greater depth by analyzing conditions and locations for its growth. They view a NASA video on "Phytoplankton: Ocean's Green Machines" and analyze satellite visualizations to determine geographical, seasonal and decadal changes in phytoplankton populations. Finally, they explore the role of nutrients as limiting factors for phytoplankton and the biological pump.


Printable Materials

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