The Ocean Ties That Bind
We Canadians have an especially close connection with the ocean. The Atlantic and Pacific embrace us east and west, and the Arctic Ocean shelters us like a giant frozen dome. From life-giving rain to life-saving medicines, from sea foods gathered on the ocean floor to goods transported on the ocean surface, from the oxygen we breathe to the biological riches we treasure — the ocean plays a vital role in our lives every moment of the day.
We, in turn, are linked with the entire ocean by way of an endless flow of water through a network of pipes, sewers, lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams, not to mention ocean currents. These mighty "rivers" of the sea, including the Gulf Stream and North Pacific Current, slowly surge between continents.
This section will help you explore in greater detail the ties that bind you with the ocean, to learn how your actions can help or harm the marine environment, whether you live near the coast or not. Not only will you find out how closely you are linked with the ocean but also how other creatures depend on ocean links to survive. What’s more, this section will direct you to projects available through the Internet that conserve these links — for example, by forming partnerships between inland and coastal schools.
Ocean Inventory: Gifts from the Sea
This activity deepens your appreciation of the benefits you receive from the sea. Research these gifts by identifying and classifying them. Create a mural, and report your findings to your class.
- Start by brainstorming all the ways in which Canadians in general, and you in particular, depend on the sea. Categorize your suggestions under these headings:
|- Nourishment||- Minerals||- Inspiration||- Medicine|
|- Recreation||- Wildlife||- Climate||- Economy|
|- Other||- Transportation||- Heritage|
- Examples under the heading "Nourishment" could include fish and lobster, but the sea supplies many other edible products, like carrageenan from red algae, used to thicken milk shakes and to make peanut butter spreadable. Under the heading "Medicine," include such examples as sharks, which researchers are investigating because of their immunity to diseases like cancer. Examples under the heading "Climate" may include the oxygen we breathe and the water we drink. Under "Transportation," list such benefits as world trade (80 percent of cargo is carried on ships) and immigration (maybe your ancestors came to Canada by sea). Under "Minerals," list things like oil and natural gas. Swimming, scuba diving, and angling could be listed under "Recreation," and fisheries and aquaculture (seafood farming) under "Economy." List under "Heritage" such benefits as the spiritual significance of a coastline to Aboriginal peoples or the cultural value of an old port or estuary. Such books as Moby Dick and films like Titanic provide "Inspiration." "Wildlife" benefits would involve habitat, migration routes, biodiversity, and much more. Under "Other" benefits, list miscellaneous gifts from the sea, such as diatom shells used in swimming pool filters and sea bird guano sometimes used to fertilize crops.
- Divide into groups of three or four students. Choose one of the categories shown above and research as many benefits under that heading as possible. Read labels on packaged foods and household products. Check out ocean sites on the Internet and library resources on the sea.
- Once the research is done, each group will summarize its findings as a list of ocean benefits and in visual form on a large sheet of paper.
- Groups then take turns displaying their artwork and reporting their findings.
- Arrange the artwork to produce one large mural of gifts from the sea.
- Follow up with a class discussion. Consider what the world would be like without oceans and their riches.
- Explore the idea that our acceptance of these gifts carries with it the responsibility to conserve them and use them wisely.
Create a "Flow Chart"
Enrich the preceding activity by investigating what you give the ocean in return. Start by creating a "flow chart" that reveals how water runs from your home or school out to sea.
- Water, also known as H20 because of the two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom in a water molecule, flows from land to sea through the path of least résistance. Every day, the average Canadian sends about 400 litres of waste water — each drop containing billions and billions of water molecules — down the drain. For the purposes of this activity, narrow your focus and follow the path of just one molecule.
- Discuss, as a class, the fact that water, once used by humans, is often polluted with used motor oil, old paint, and other hazardous wastes that can have a devastating impact on aquatic habitat (see “Prevent Marine Pollution").
- Discuss what happens to sewage from your school, home, and community once it goes down the drain. A typical path, if you live in the country, might begin with a septic tank. In most towns and cities, sewage flows through a long maze of pipes to a purification plant, although many communities skip this step. Whether or not wastes and germs are removed before water is pumped into rivers, lakes, or the ocean itself, a lot of contaminants remain. Freshwater then flows through a serpentine network of streams, ponds, marshes, lakes, and rivers that merge into a single drainage basin, which empties into a salt-water body such as the Atlantic, Pacific, or Arctic Ocean. Finally, vast, surging ocean currents carry this water to distant shores.
- To plot the journey from your drain to the open sea, study maps of your community and region — preferably topographical maps — plus a map of global drainage basins and ocean currents. Contact your municipality to obtain a map of local sewer routes, which you will need to trace the passage from your school to a purification plant or waterway.
- Once you have investigated your oceanward route, create a flow chart on a long sheet of paper — drawing and labelling the path a single water molecule would take from drain to sewer to purification plant, tributary, major river, drainage basin, sea, and around the globe on ocean currents. Label the latitude and longitude coordinates of places in the world where your water molecule might end up.
- Extend this activity by highlighting on your flow chart places where humans and wildlife might be positively or negatively affected by the absence or presence of contaminants coming from your school and community.
Monitor a Marine Migration
By tracking the journeys of marine migrants, you can learn how they depend on healthy ocean links to survive. To start, discover the projects listed below. They will enable you to participate in state-of-the-art conservation efforts to help marine migrants and other ocean creatures.
- Track the long-distance migrations of leatherback turtles. Small satellite transmitters attached to the backs of the turtles before they are released will send out signals telling researchers where they are.
- Other online sources of migration data include WhaleNet and Journey North , which track the seasonal odysseys of everything from manatees to marine turtles, from whooping cranes to humpback whales. You can also share authentic data, based on your own sightings of migratory species, with some of these Internet resources.
- Another opportunity to collect data is available to youngsters living in the Arctic, who can track the arrivals and departures of marine mammals, like narwhals, belugas, and bowhead whales. Participants should record their sightings for every day of the year in a chart listing dates, species sighted, and habitats where animals appear, such as open water, floe edge, pack ice, and fast ice. Report your findings to Robert Stewart at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
- Find out how you can help report on or collect data on stranded marine species, be they bowhead whales icebound in an Arctic bay, a sea otter soiled by crude oil, or a great blue heron thrown off course by a storm while migrating.
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