Learning Module

Ocean Warming

Students explore how ocean warming is affecting two species in the Gulf of Maine, Lobster and Black Sea bass. After hearing accounts from scientists and fishers about unusual sightings and experiences in recent years, students will investigate this phenomenon by interpreting authentic data on species abundance and sea surface temperature. They will further their investigation by analyzing maps of temperature change over time to explain shifts in lobster and black sea bass populations. Finally, students will make their own predictions about changes to the Gulf of Maine.


Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to...

  • Analyze data to investigate changes in the Gulf of Maine
  • Synthesize information across multiple datasets and models to explain changes happening in the Gulf of Maine
  • Apply learning to make predictions about range of lobster and black sea bass in the future

Students will understand...

  • Changes in ecosystems have impacts on the species within those ecosystems -- some populations thrive, some move, some decline.
  • Investigating changes in ecosystems often is a collaborative effort between professional scientists and members of local communities.
  • Data helps us understand a problem or phenomenon
  • Using data to understand a phenomenon involves being able to read and make sense of data representations (tables, graphs, maps, etc.) and models.

Time Estimate
4 to 10 class periods


Learning Space

The content from this module is similar to the content in the LabVenture experience. Before beginning this module, if your students have not already, consider starting with the two lessons from Preparing for LabVenture: Exploring Global and Regional Climate Trends sequence to build students’ understanding of current climate trends.

Lesson 1: I saw something really weird...

Students gather information on changes happening in the Gulf of Maine from accounts from local scientists. They collect existing background knowledge and generate questions about changes in the Gulf of Maine

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Slides | Video

Lesson 2: Finding the Right Temperature

Students work with data on black sea bass gathered from trawl surveys to learn about the new species appearing in the Gulf of Maine. Students organize the data in small sets to try and draw meaning from it before interpreting scatter plots of large datasets to determine an ideal temperature range for black sea bass.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Slides | Trawl Data Cards

Lesson 3: Shifty Species

In this lesson, students examine sea surface temperature maps over four decades to track long term changes in ocean temperature. They connect what they learned about the ideal temperature range for black sea bass to the shifts in temperature to explain how changes in temperature could result in a shift in where black sea bass are found.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Slides | Sea Surface Temperature Interactive

Lesson 4: The Future of the Gulf of Maine

Students build on their understanding of how temperature change drives range shifts through a modeling activity in the form of a board game. They will simulate range shifts by adding and removing lobster and black sea bass cards according to shifting temperatures. They synthesize learning by making predictions about the future of lobster and black sea bass populations in the Gulf of Maine.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Slides | Game board, species cards, and data sheets | Temperature Tracking Sheet