Exploring Mote Marine Laboratory Oceanography Data in the ClassroomAccess Transect station data from the Phytoplankton Ecology Program at the Mote Marine Laboratory
Transect station data from the Phytoplankton Ecology Program at the Mote Marine Laboratory provide processed data in graphical form illustrating salinity, temperature, fluorescence, and density for a transect station in the Gulf of Mexico near Sarasota Springs, FL.
Use and Relevance
The Mote Marine Laboratory Phytoplankton Ecology Program focuses on microscopic plants in the oceans, many of which produce harmful toxins. Eating red tide infected shellfish can be fatal (more info) to humans. Red tides are controlled by a variety of factors including nutrient availability and viral infections (see Review). Scientists use data generated from the Phytoplankton Ecology Program to better understand conditions under which red tide blooms develop.
Use in Teaching
This dataset can be used to teach the following topics and skills in physical and environmental oceanography:
- Harmful algal bloom dynamics and prediction methods
- Temperature-depth relationships
- Relationships between temperature, salinity, and density
- Understanding the use of CTD casts in making oceanographic measurements
- Using data to make hypotheses about factors that may induce algal blooms
- Using hypotheses to make predictions about factors leading to algal blooms and testing these predictions
- Using the data to make visualizations of temporal changes
- Interpreting transect and vertical profile data and their representation on maps
Exploring the Data
Data Type and Presentation
Raw data are processed and represented as images in GIF format. Images (separate for each measured parameter) are archived for the years 1998 to 2004.
Accessing the Data
Data are provided as links to dates for CTD measurements. By choosing a specific date, users gain access to GIF files containing processed data in the form of maps that illustrate transect and vertical profile data.
Manipulating Data and Creating Visualizations
Students can process and stack transect images using an image processing tool such as ImageJ. Students can create representations by to observe seasonal and annual variations in salinity, temperature, density, and fluorescence. Transects can also be examined in the months leading up to two red tide incidents that are shown for 03/30/98 and 05/18/98, allowing students to make or test predictions about factors that contribute to bloom formation.
Tools for Data Manipulation
Image processing tools, such as ImageJ, can be used to process and stack GIF images and to create animations. The Earth Exploration Toolkit provides information on obtaining ImageJ. The National Institutes of Health provide a brief tutorial on basic concepts and use of ImageJ.
About the Data
The Transect project provides data archived as images. Salinity, density, and temperature were measured using CTD casts for 30 meter vertical profiles. Transect data collection occurred in 5 mile increments, extending up to 30 miles offshore (Gulf of Mexico; Sarasota Springs, FL). A fluorometer attached to the CTD was used to measure fluorescence (inferring phytoplankton density).
Limitations and Sources of Error
Sources of error can occur in data transmission from CTD casts and data quality can be affected by factors that may damage or interfere with instrumentation. The data do not address other issues pertinent to bloom dynamics such as iron content and viral particle density.
References and Resources
Other Related Scientific References
- Optical monitoring and forecasting systems for harmful algal blooms: Possibility or pipe dream: A review article that critically assesses methods for modeling and predicting harmful algal blooms (from the Journal of Phycology).
- Harmful algal blooms: causes, impacts and detection: A review article that discusses natural and anthropogenic processes that impact bloom development.
Other related Education Resources
- Active inquiry, web-based oceanography exercises: An article that addresses the use of data in teaching ocean circulation and variations in temperature and salinity (from the Journal of Geoscience Education).
- The Earth Exploration Toolkit provides a module on When is Dinner Served? Predicting the Spring Phytoplankton Bloom in the Gulf of Maine
- The Harmful Algal Bloom Project site, hosted by NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration ( This site may be offline. ) ), provides a forecasting system for the Gulf of Mexico, an interactive mapping system, and access to historical data.
- The Oceanography Education site at UC, Santa Barbara contains teacher resources, course materials, and presentations related to oceanography.
- The Ocean Chemistry and Productivity site contains pedagogical information related to teaching with visualizations. The site also contains representations for illustrating chemical cycles and phytoplankton productivity and relationships between depth and physical properties (from the Cutting Edge: Teaching Geoscience with Visualizations).
- Resources and links from the 2005 Cutting Edge workshop, Teaching About the Ocean System Using New Research Techniques: Data, Models and Visualization, are available online.
- The Red Tide and Harmful Algae site contains valuable information regarding phytoplankton species, toxins, and adverse impacts. Site also contains links to maps of bloom and toxin distribution.