Temperature & Species Distribution
(by Matthew d'Alessio)
Florida is home to the beautiful warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While there is diverse marine life, including many species of barnacles, there are some species that are only found on the west coast of the USA. Recently, people in Florida started observing a special pink barnacle that we have in California in their water. How did it get there? Will barnacles from California, where surfers require wetsuits, thrive in Florida's warm gulf waters? Will they take over?
To answer these questions, scientists started tracking the abundance of barnacles using settlement plates, a common practice to monitor invasive species and to systematically explore the role of environmental conditions on biodiversity. They attach a ceramic tile like you find in your bathroom to a brick and drop it into the ocean at a specific spot near the shore. They record the ocean conditions at the spot and leave the plate for weeks at a time. They then pull the plate up and it is covered with sea life.They then take the plate back to the lab to count and study the different organisms that made the plate their home.
Middle School: MS-LS2-1 (CA Grade 7). Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on cause and effect relationships between resources and growth of individual organisms and the numbers of organisms in ecosystems during periods of abundant and scarce resources.]
High School: HS-LS2-2. Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales. [Clarification Statement: Examples of mathematical representations include finding the average, determining trends, and using graphical comparisons of multiple sets of data.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to provided data.]
This activity was inspired by the much more sophisticated professionally designed online simulator by SimBio, which costs money to use and qualitatively mimics actual scientific data from Team Bethos at the University of Connecticut.