Lab 7: Ocean Acidification

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

Summary and Learning Objectives

Oceans are absorbing about a third of of carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels. In Part A, students learn about the pH and ocean carbonate chemistry of ocean acidification and examine time series evidence that our oceans are becoming more acidic. In Part B, students learn about the effect of ocean acidification on shell-building organisms such as oysters, lobsters and sea urchins. They use the Virtual Urchin lab, developed by Stanford University, to investigate the effects of a more acidic ocean pH on the ability of sea urchins to form their carbonate internal skeleton

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:

  • Explain what ocean acidification is and why it is happening;
  • Describe ways in which individual species and marine ecosystems may respond to ocean acidification; and
  • Describe how ocean acidification may impact the ability of oceans to store carbon in deep sea sediments.

Open the Student Lab »

Overview and Teaching Materials

Detailed overview of what students will do in each lab activity, how long it will take, and what materials are required to complete the lab.

Printable Materials

Download and print files needed for each lab activity, including images, data tables, and Stop and Think questions.

Teaching Notes and Tips

General recommendations for classroom implementation.

Student Notebooks

Suggestions for how to use Student Notebooks for Lab 7.


There are several options for assessment of student understanding of material introduced in this lab. Choose from the following list, or create your own assessments.

Science Standards

Lab 7 supports following Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Additional Resources

Explore background information and content extensions related to Lab 7.