And On His Farm He Had Some Fish

The lab activity described here was created by Erin Bardar of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

Summary and Learning Objectives

Aquaculture is the most rapidly growing food-production industry in the world. In Part A of this investigation, students examine and analyze U.S. and global aquaculture data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Fisheries and Aquaculture database. In Part B, students examine global trends in aquaculture production and learn about aquaculture methods and their associated environmental impacts. In Part C, students use ImageJ to analyze before and after satellite images of the Pacific coast of Honduras to illustrate how aquaculture is altering coastlines.

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:

  • create and interpret graphical representations of aquaculture production data;
  • describe methods and environmental risks associated with fish farming; and
  • use ImageJ to compare images.
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Context for use

This investigation continues building on students' understanding of the many problems facing the health of the world's oceans and fisheries. Students are introduced to the benefits and drawbacks of aquaculture. The lab requires a computer with spreadsheet software, Adobe Reader, ImageJ, and Internet access for every one or two students. The data analysis task instructions are written for Microsoft Excel, but other spreadsheet software should work as well. Previous experience using spreadsheets is useful, but not necessary.

Activity Overview and Teaching Materials

Students begin Part Aby examining 2005 U.S. Aquaculture Production (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 9kB Aug6 18) data and creating a pie chart in Excel to show the contribution of various species to the overall U.S. aquaculture production. The instructor's version (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 14kB Aug7 18) of this file includes a sample pie chart.

In Part B, students examine trends in global aquaculture production. They also learn about various fish farming methods and their environmental impacts by reading the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Fish Farming Fact Cards (Acrobat (PDF) 149kB Oct15 07).

In Part C, students download images of shrimp farming in Honduras from the NASA Earth Observatory Newsroom . To complete the image analysis portion of this part of the investigation, student computers will need to be equipped with ImageJ . Help for this tool is available at: ImageJ Documentation . Students also read a World Wildlife Fund article about the problems associated with aquaculture, and watch the ABC News clip Fish Farms of the Future. To view this video clip, student computers need to be equipped with the Adobe Flash Player.

Printable Materials

  • Activity Sheet (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 28kB Oct15 07) and Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Aug7 18))
  • 2005 U.S. Aquaculture Production (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 9kB Aug6 18)

Teaching notes and tips

The ABC News clip can be projected for whole class viewing and discussion.


You can assess student understanding of topics addressed in this Investigation by grading their responses to the Stop and Think questions.

State and National Science Teaching Standards

Additional Resources

Background Information