Map and profile data of a section of the Pacific Ocean displayed by GeoMapApp. Click on image for a larger view.
This chapter is appropriate for grades 9 - 16.
After completing this chapter, students will be able to:
- navigate to hydrothermal vent locations around the world and access geospatial data from multiple sources;
- sort, select, edit, and view data in spreadsheet format;
- create a topographic profile of the ocean floor and measure size of various features;
- examine images from hydrothermal vent locations to make observations of species diversity and geologic features; and
- develop and test hypotheses using observations and metadata.
The excitement of scientific discovery is captured in the surprising story of hydrothermal vents and the diverse ecosystem they support in the absence of sunlight. In this chapter, students are guided through their own process of discovery, simulating the past forty years of research at underwater volcanoes along oceanic spreading centers. They use tools and data from the Ridge 2000 Data Portal along with other sources. Students explore the topography and biology of these regions with GeoMapApp, a program developed at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. They investigate, develop, and test hypotheses based upon the observations they collect.
Before beginning this chapter, students should be familiar with the basics of plate tectonic theory, and have some knowledge of divergent margins and spreading centers where new ocean crust is forming. As they work through the chapter activities, they will be guided to learn more specific information about the following topics using the Dive and Discover web pages sponsored by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:
- Mid-ocean ridges - comparison between fast-spreading vs. slow-spreading ridges
- Hydrothermal vent circulation - diagram explaining how fluids migrate through bedrock and are released at a hydrothermal vent
- Life forms at hydrothermal vents - descriptions and images of the various life forms that make up the ecosystem around a hydrothermal vent
- Photosynthesis vs. Chemosynthesis - comparison between different pathways of producing energy to sustain life
As an introduction to the topic, users may view an 8.5 minute video clip provided by NBC's Today show, documenting a trip that journalist Ann Curry took to the East Pacific Rise in October 2008 aboard the submersible Alvin.
Instructors will want to work through the Case Study and each part of the chapter ahead of time to see what steps might require more guidance for their students. It will be useful for instructors to familiarize themselves with the menu options in GeoMapApp, especially the zoom and profile tools and the data table configuration menu. Since the instructions for GeoMapApp are complex, it is easy to make a mistake and it is easier for an instructor to troubleshoot possible user mistakes when they are familiar with the program themselves. It is also important for instructors to read through the supplemental webpages that provide background information on hydrothermal vents and the ecosystem they support.
The chapter is designed so students can easily repeat the setup steps if they need to quit the GeoMapApp for the end of a class period or if there is a problem in loading or configuring data. At the end of each part, they are directed to save their work before they move on to the next part. At the beginning of each part, they are given an option to reload their data in case they are restarting the program at the beginning of a class period or if the GeoMapApp program needs to be restarted for some reason.
Students can work through the steps of the chapter individually or in small groups. It may be best to have them organized into groups of two or three, so they can share ideas and provide help with following the steps as needed. Instructors are encouraged to move between groups frequently, checking on student progress and providing assistance as needed to avoid long periods of downtime or misdirected work. If possible, organize the classroom so the instructor views most or all of the computer screens at the same time.
The Going Further section describes several opportunities for further exploration by students who are interested in an independent research project for a science fair or extra credit.
The material and activities explored in this chapter would be suitable for a high school earth science or college-level introductory geology or oceanography class. The chapter could be used in conjunction with a unit on plate tectonics, volcanoes, or marine ecosystems.
The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:
- Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations. Students should form a testable hypothesis and demonstrate the logical connections between the scientific concepts guiding a hypothesis and the design of an experiment. They should demonstrate appropriate procedures, a knowledge base, and conceptual understanding of scientific investigations.
- Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications. A variety of technologies, such as hand tools, measuring instruments, and calculators, should be an integral component of scientific investigations. The use of computers for the collection, analysis, and display of data is also a part of this standard. Mathematics plays an essential role in all aspects of an inquiry. For example, measurement is used for posing questions, formulas are used for developing explanations, and charts and graphs are used for communicating results.
- The great diversity of organisms is the result of more than 3.5 billion years of evolution that has filled every available niche with life forms. (standard 12CLS3.2)
- The distribution and abundance of organisms and populations in ecosystems are limited by the availability of matter and energy and the ability of the ecosystem to recycle materials. (standard 12CLS5.5)
- The outward transfer of Earth's internal heat drives convection circulation in the mantle that propels the plates comprising earth's surface across the face of the globe. (standard 12DESS1.2)
- Scientists in different disciplines ask different questions, use different methods of investigation, and accept different types of evidence to support their explanations. Many scientific investigations require the contributions of individuals from different disciplines, including engineering. New disciplines of science, such as geophysics and biochemistry often emerge at the interface of two older disciplines.
- Individuals and teams have contributed and will continue to contribute to the scientific enterprise. Doing science or engineering can be as simple as an individual conducting field studies or as complex as hundreds of people working on a major scientific question or technological problem. Pursuing science as a career or as a hobby can be both fascinating and intellectually rewarding.
- Science will never be finished. Although men and women using scientific inquiry have learned much about the objects, events, and phenomena in nature, much more remains to be understood.
- The historical perspective of scientific explanations demonstrates how scientific knowledge changes by evolving over time, almost always building on earlier knowledge. (standard 12GHNS3.4)
The following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:
- How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
- How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface
- The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface
- The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface
This chapter will require three to four class periods of 45-60 minutes each.
Lesson plan outline:
1. Briefly introduce the topic beforehand by showing the NBC video of Ann Curry's trip in Alvin to the East Pacific Rise.
2. Assign the Case Study as reading homework, making printed copies available for those students who do not have computer access at home. Encourage students to explore the additional resources that describe the first discovery of life at hydrothermal vents in 1977 and 1979.
3. For the first day of the activity, students should be able to work through Parts 1 and 2, depending on the length of class period available.
4. On the second day of the activity, students will work through the observations and images in Part 3, and may have time to continue on to Part 4, depending on the length of class period available.
5. On the third day of the activity, students should be able to work through the example hypothesis in Part 4, as well as two or three of the working hypotheses. Instructors may wish to split up the working hypotheses between groups, so that each group tests one of the hypotheses and reports back to the class on their findings. Instructors are encouraged to assist students in developing their own hypotheses for testing to conclude the chapter.
Sample Results that can serve as an Answer Key
Students will generate a variety of products as they work through each part of the chapter.
Part 1. Getting Started with GeoMapApp
Part 2. Explore bathymetry data from the East Pacific Rise
Part 3. Observe life in the extreme environment of the East Pacific Rise