Writing Assignment for Marine Biology

Anthony Santorelli, Anne Arundel Community College
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Students write about the important aspects of a species of sea life, including physical characteristics, habitat, behaviors and interaction with humans and also provide a video that addresses that sea life along with a short summary. The video and its respective summary are then required to be uploaded to a discussion board so students can share what they learned about the species that they selected.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals
1. Understanding of important aspects of the ocean environment required for a species of ocean life to survive.
2. Differentiating between vertebrates and invertebrates.
3. Identifying the physical characteristics of a species of ocean life.
4. Describing the feeding and mating habits of a species of ocean life.
5. Describing behaviors corresponding to predation or protection from predators for a species of ocean life.
6. Identifying the relationships that sea life have with humans.
7. Describing the level of endangerment a species of sea life has in our oceans.

Higher order thinking skills goals
I expect a synthesis of resources, including textual and visual, to be able to address the concept goals above. I also expect synthesis of concepts from not only marine biology but also from our discussions of physical, geological and chemical oceanography, which are all important in dictating the species' behavior and habitat.

Other skills goals
I expect proper writing mechanics, including spelling, grammar and organization, as well as proper citation in APA format, both in-text and with a Works Cited list at the end.

Context for Use

Type and level of course
This assignment is used in an introductory general oceanography course for non-majors.

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
Students should have mastered understanding of not only characteristics common to different categories of sea life, including plankton, nekton and benthos, but should have a strong understanding of physical and chemical characteristics of the ocean, both in a general and geographically-specific sense, that are important for certain species of sea life to thrive in. Understanding of processes and mechanisms used for nutrition and protection are also important.

How the activity is situated in the course
This is an assignment that is given during the marine biology portion of the general oceanography course. It is a stand-alone exercise.

Description and Teaching Materials

The assignment instructions are provided through the uploaded file.
Animals of the Pelagic and Benthic Environment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB Apr20 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips

There is usually the most confusion for students in how to cite their sources in APA format, although this is not their first writing assignment in my course. This is where the presence of an embedded online librarian in the course is very beneficial! I also have had students forget about posting their video and respective summary after including it in their paper!


I have a simple rubric that is in the assignment that I use for grading.

References and Resources