Marine Protected areas provide a great introduction to teaching students about conservation biology on both local and global scales. These areas provide models for healthy ecosystems in case of natural disasters, pollution events, and climate change. In addition, they provide an invaluable opportunity for students to engage in citizen science, allowing them to play the role of a true scientific researcher in localized monitoring. By performing citizen science students can assess if marine protected areas are in fact improving local marine populations and creating healthier ecosystems.
Students will engage in meaningful activities focus around Marine Protected Areas and their role as citizen scientists in maintaining the health of our local and global oceans.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) play an important role in ensuring the future sustainability of our local coastal ecosystems. These MPAs designate certain parts of the oceans and great lakes as areas that must be conserved. In the U.S. alone there are over 1,600 designated MPAs, spanning a variety of marine habitats including: rocky-intertidal, mudflats, estuaries, open oceans, and coastal waters. These MPAs maintain current species populations, while also allowing them to grow without the threat of mass scale harvesting by fisheries. These species grow and spill out over the designated MPA area, allowing local marine populations to thrive and local ecosystems to maintain healthy food webs. All MPAs are part of a larger federal network that allows shared regulation and research to ensure that these conservation areas are making a positive impact. Scientists take monthly surveys to look at biodiversity, population fluctuations, water quality, and productivity. In addition to scientists, local citizens play a vital role in data collection and monitoring through citizen science. In a world where fish stocks are dwindling, climate change is altering ecosystems, and pollution is a constant threat, MPAs provide a sense of relief for local marine ecosystems.
Citizen science is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur scientists. Citizen science is sometimes described as "public participation in scientific research".
Sequence of Activities
My Hero Film: Laguna Blue Belt
Guided Discussion: The Effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas
**Please note: If you have the time to break the activities into 2 class periods it would allow students more time for discussion
In addition to the My Hero film series you will need the following materials:
⇒ Quadrats made of pvc pipe
⇒ String (thin)
⇒ Small plastic cups or petri dishes
⇒ Calipers or rulers
⇒ Shells or small objects
⇒ Printouts of the rocky intertidal (images should include a mixture of: mussels, rock, algae, snails, barnacles)
⇒ Student also need notebooks or laptops for data collection
The following questions will help you determine if your students gained appropriate
understanding. For further assessment students could be tested on basic concepts.
1. What role do Marine Protected Areas play in the sustainability of local coastal
2. Why do Marine Protected Areas Exist?
3. What methods do scientists and citizen scientist use to track populations and
biodiversity in MPAs overtime?
4. How does data collection provide a role in the maintenance of existing MPAs and
the establishment of others?
This lesson is meant to give students a basic introduction of Marine Protected Areas and basic citizen science. However there are several ways to extend or expand the lesson.
⇒ If you live in an area where an MPA is accessible it would be very beneficial to perform biodiversity surveys in the rocky-intertidal. Make sure to check with local state beach authority to give them a heads up.
⇒ Bring in a local researcher to discuss ways students can engage in citizen science
⇒ If students have iphones have them download various citizen science or conservation apps such as fishfinder or seafood watch and challenge them to engage throughout the year.
Lesson Plan Activities
1. Review or introduce the following terms:
● Species, Population, Community, Ecosystem
● Species Richness v. Species Abundance
● Marine Protected Area
2. Define Marine Protected Area
3. Q. How do you think the establishment of Marine Protected Areas alters biodiversity, populations, ecosystem health? (5 min)
● Have students think pair share
● Whole class share out
4. Q. Why might we need Marine Protected Areas at this time in history? (5 Min)
● Have students think pair share
● Whole class share out
● Read Background on Marine Protected Areas and Citizen Science Provided
**Teacher Prep: While students watch the videos lay out 4 images (of intertidal up close) for each group along with several small shells or objects (10 +). These are going to serve as their research plots for the biodiversity survey.
6. Introduce the mock biodiversity survey as a form of citizen science in MPAs.
Practice and Application
8. Have students share their findings regarding population numbers (Species abundance), and biodiversity (Species Richness) (5 min)
9. Watch My Hero film (10 min): Laguna BlueBelt
10. Guided Discussion Questions:
● What role do Marine Protected Areas play in the sustainability of local coastal ecosystems?
● Why do Marine Protected Areas Exist? How is Laguna BlueBelt a successful example of an MPA?
● What methods do scientists and citizen scientist use to track populations and biodiversity in MPAs overtime?
● How does data collection provide a role in the maintenance of existing MPAs and the establishment of others?
**Note: Discussion could start as break out groups of 5 or less students before larger group discussion
● Provide any feedback based on observations
● Review major concepts and essential question
Adapted from the SIOP Model by Echevarria, Vogt and Short, 2008
Created by Lauren Fieberg, Sage School (revised 2020)
Organizer created on 7/23/2020 1:06:55 PM by Laura Nietzer
Last edited 12/22/2020 11:22:19 AM by Laura Nietzer