EARTH SCIENCE Part 2: Studying Oceanography

12 Minutes

While over 70% of the globe is covered by oceans, much of it remains a mystery. Its vast size, depth, and power entice scientists to uncover the many secrets it holds. Oceanography is extremely multidisciplinary, covering the physics, chemistry, geology and biology of the world’s oceans. No understanding of Earth’s climate or the chemical cycles essential to life is complete without understanding the basics of oceanography. In this episode of SCIENCE SCREEN REPORT FOR KIDS, we will learn about ocean ecosystems as well as marine life, currents, and the impact they have on climate and humankind’s existence.

SYNOPSIS

While over 70% of the globe is covered by oceans, much of it remains a mystery. Its vast size, depth, and power entice scientists to uncover the many secrets it holds. Oceanography is extremely multidisciplinary, covering the physics, chemistry, geology and biology of the world’s oceans. No understanding of Earth’s climate or the chemical cycles essential to life is complete without understanding the basics of oceanography. In Earth Science Part 2, we will learn about ocean ecosystems as well as marine life, currents, and the impact they have on climate and especially, humankind’s existence. Scripps Research Institute, with locations in San Diego, CA and Jupiter, FL has been a leader in biomedical applications of oceanic science. For example, marine-derived natural products isolated from a South Pacific sponge in trace quantities have shown anti-leukemia potential, but studies have been all but stalled by lack of availability. But using only acetylene gas, a handful of amino acids, and a dozen inventive steps, a team from The Scripps Research Institute has finally established the first technique to synthesize the sponge enzyme in the laboratory in large quantities more than a decade after their discovery. With supplies now in hand, and unlimited production potential established, research on the compound can proceed and may eventually lead to new drug treatments. Another major research focus is on the distribution of biological organisms like bacteria and algae with potential human health consequences in the temperate coastal ocean, including bays, harbors and estuaries.

Oceanography is the scientific study of the Earth’s oceans and their boundaries. Looking at our Earth from space, it is obvious that we live on a water planet. Ocean covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface and contains about 97% of the Earth’s surface water. Life in the oceans can be found from the surface to the extreme environments at the bottom of the deepest submarine trench. It is not surprising that the oceans represent over 99% of the living space on Earth… we are indeed living on what is truly an ocean planet. Most human beings live on or near coastlines, and human history is closely linked to the oceans. They serve as a source of food, as the key to weather and climate, and as the highways for ships of commerce.

Oceanography as a science began in the 19th century with the work of the first major scientific expedition, and the one that firmly established the field of oceanography, was the around-the-world voyage of H.M.S. Challenger. Setting out from England in 1872, the Challenger Expedition returned three years and five months later with a wealth of information on the physical and chemical characteristics of seawater and bottom sediments, as well as the first comprehensive data on the distribution of organic life at all water depths and on the seafloor. Following this voyage, oceanographic research was generally conducted either on short cruises that concentrated on small areas of the ocean, or on long cruises with limited objectives pursued in widely separated small areas.

Modern oceanography is a combination of several fields of science, and it is conventionally divided into the subdisciplines of physical, chemical, biological, and geological oceanography. Closely associated fields are those of marine technology, maritime law, and studies of the effects of ocean pollution. As a whole, modern oceanography is pursued mainly at a few major centers around the world. The research goals within such centers tend to focus on intense studies of smaller ocean areas by teams representing each of the broad oceanographic disciplines. Among leading U.S. institutions are the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA and Jupiter, FL, and the Woods Hole scientific institutions on Cape Cod, Mass.

VOCABULARY

Alongshore: Parallel to and near the shoreline (same as longshore).
Aphotic Zone:
Part of the ocean where the sun does not penetrate.
Atoll:
A ring shaped coral reef that grows upward from a submerged volcanic peak and encloses a lagoon.
Backrush:
The seaward return of water following the uprush of the waves.
Bar:
A submerged or emerged mound of sand, gravel or shell material built on the ocean floor in shallow water by waves and currents.
Barrier Beach:
A sedimentary land-form essentially parallel to the shore, the crest of which is above normal high water level. Also called a barrier island.
Barrier Reef:
A coral reef that parallels the shore but is separated from the landmass by open water.
Bay:
A recess in the shore or an inlet of a sea between two capes or headlands.
Beach:
A zone of unconsolidated material that extends landward from the low water line to the place where there is marked change in material.
Benthos:
The forms of marine life that live on or in the ocean bottom.
Coral(s):
The skeletal remains secreted by small marine polyps; their unique form makes them easily mistaken for plants.
Coral Polyp:
A tiny animal that can exist individually or in colonies and may secrete an external skeleton.
Ebb Tide:
The period of tide between high water and low water. A falling tide.
Echo Sounder: A device that reflects sound off the ocean bottom to sense water depth.
Glomar Challenger:
A deep sea research and scientific drilling vessel for oceanography and marine geology studies.
Kelp:
The various species of large brown algae.
Lagoon:
A shallow body of water, as a pond or lake, usually connected to the sea.
Mean Sea Level:
The average height of the surface of the sea at a given place for all stages of the tide over a 19-year period.
Neap Tide:
A tide occurring near the time of quadrature of the moon with the sun. The neap tide range is usually 10- to 30-percent less than the mean tidal range.
Ocean Current:
Mass of ocean water that flows from one place to another.
Oceanographic Institution:
An organization focusing on the study of marine environment (oceanography).
Oceanography:
The scientific study of the oceans and oceanic phenomena.
Overfishing:
Harvesting a fish species at a rate exceeding the maximum harvest that would still allow the population to be replaced by reproduction.
Photic Zone:
The upper part of the ocean into which sunlight penetrates
Plankton:
Passively drifting or weakly swimming organisms that cannot move independently of ocean currents.
Phytoplankton:
Algal plankton, which are the most important community of primary producers in the ocean.
Salinity:
The proportion of dissolved salts to pure water.
Sea-surface Height:
The height the sea surface would be if there were no waves.
Surf Zone:
The area between the outermost breaker and the limit of wave uprush.
Tide:
The periodic rising and falling of the water that results from gravitational attraction of the moon, the sun and other astronomical bodies acting upon the rotating earth.
Trenches:
Highly localized submarine gashes in the Earth’s crust.
Updrift:
The direction opposite that of the predominant movement of sediment along the shore.
Upwelling:
A current of cold, nutrient-rich water rising to the surface.

Vocabulary Learning Tool: Make a Jeopardy Game. http://www.superteachertools.us/jeopardyx/brandnewgame.php

CURRICULUM UNITS

  • MARINE BIOLOGY
  • OCEANOGRAPHY

CAREER POSSIBILITIES

  • MARINE BIOLOGIST
  • OCEANOGRAPHER

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