Only after researchers have identified a species' breeding grounds, migration routes, and wintering habitat do they know which regions and countries need to be involved in its conservation. Students too can learn a lot about marine migrants — and how they depend on healthy habitats to survive — by monitoring them both in real space and in cyberspace. Once youngsters have reviewed the resource sheet ("Ocean Life on the Move") and the migration wall chart, they're ready to follow a marine migration.
Divide your class into small working groups. Each will track the seasonal journey of a species, such as a shorebird, sea turtle, or marine mammal, using various sources of migration data. Students should find examples of natural and human threats to their migrants and ways to lessen these menaces. They may also attempt to unravel the mystery of how each animal finds its way from one place to another.
- Obtain maps of migration routes from such organizations as CWF, the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
- Contact CWS to obtain authentic bird-banding data. Tagging studies, in which researchers fasten a light band around a bird's leg so the animal can be identified later on, have solved many migration mysteries and documented the longest journey of all — the arctic tern's 35,000-kilometre round-trip flight from the Arctic to Antarctica every year.
- Other on-line sources of migration data include Environment Canada, WhaleNet, Journey North, and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. These sites track the odysseys of everything from manatees to marine turtles, from whooping cranes to harlequin ducks. Students can also contribute authentic data, based on actual sightings of migratory species, to some of these Web sites.
The next time a flock, gam, pod, or shoal of ocean migrants stops by your community, roll out the habitat welcome mat and put on a splashy celebration. Spread the word about how migratory species connect your community with the sea. Encourage others to proclaim the event just as they would commemorate a royal visit.
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