Students will be able to:
- describe a variety of local land-based threats to ocean wildlife;
- describe local features that promote ocean health; and
- create a map, depicting indicators of local ocean threats.
In this mapping activity, students research and visit local waterways and/or coastal areas to identify potential threats to ocean wildlife.
Map of the area to be studied, "Resource Sheet: The Ocean Threats Scavenger Hunt"
Whether inland or on the coast, our communities harbour a number of threats to ocean wildlife. When we know what to look for, we'll see clues we've passed hundreds of times before. Here are a few examples:
- Look for dams, dikes, weirs, and "perched" culverts (those that discharge high above the water surface). They impede movement of aquatic wildlife and keep fish like salmon from critical spawning areas.
• Look for signs that your shores are disturbed. Concrete or wood retaining walls, eroding banks, buried waterways (culverts under roads), lawns within three metres of the water's edge, and parking lots or roads beside the shore can wipe out shoreline wildlife habitat and hinder the absorption of contaminated run-off.
Toxic "Hot Spots"
- Look for places where toxic material, such as oil from parking lots, or salt from bridges and roads, can enter waterways.
- Look for retaining ponds and outflows from mines, industry, storm sewers, and domestic sewage (especially those not fully treated).
- Look for municipal dumps too close to waterways.
- Look for litter in local streams.
- Look up. Smoke stacks can launch airborne pollutants seaward.
• Look for homes, cottages, and resorts that have displaced natural beaches and marshes—critical habitats for some species.
• Look for night lighting in coastal areas that can disorient turtle hatchlings or migrating birds.
- Look for straightened creeks, dredged harbours, etc. These disrupt flow patterns and change the bottom materials of waterways, affecting "bottom-dwellers" on which other wildlife feed.
Also look for signs of healthy waterways and shorelines:
- riparian areas that are natural and well-vegetated at least three metres back from shore;
- fish ways (i.e., ladders) so fish can get around dams;
- the presence of wildlife and wildlife signs;
- sewage plants that fully treat the sewage; and
- parks and protected areas.
Students who are capable of independent work can be organized into teams and assigned an area in which to conduct the scavenger hunt. Always consider safety issues, particularly where traffic and water are concerned, and brief the students accordingly. You can also run this activity as a closely- supervised field trip with groups of younger students. Your discoveries can be added to a community map and set the stage for future actions.
- Introduce the topic. Emphasize that we are connected to all oceans through the atmosphere and to one of the three Canadian oceans through our local watershed. Use the "Canadian Drainage Basins" map or the "Creature Connections Discovery Tour" game board to point out the connections, especially to ocean wildlife.
- Discuss the different ocean threats and their impacts on wildlife. From the information in the "Background" section of this activity, create a checklist of ocean threats and signs to look for. Or you can use the ready-made checklist called "The Ocean Threats Scavenger Hunt".
- Develop a common legend for the maps you will create, based on your checklist.
- Make the research of the local threats a small-group scavenger hunt challenge. Use existing maps (local or available through the Internet), phone calls, the Internet, or field trips to designated sites. Using your common legend, record the threats on the maps and share the information.
- Discuss how the threats may affect ocean wildlife.
Follow up with actions from “Discover the Ocean in Your Backyard”.
Evaluate students' maps for neatness, clarity, completeness, and accuracy, as well as for basic components, such as map title, scale, legend and north arrow.
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