Organisms that live at or near the water surface--at the top of the water column--are especially vulnerable to oil spills, because these creatures come into contact with oil slicks on the water surface (like the slick escaping from the tanker in the photo at right).
This presentation explains how to visit a coastal location to observe the organisms that live near the water surface. In this presentation, we talk mainly about ocean organisms, but you could use the same basic methods to learn about organisms living near the surface of a big lake or river.
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION AND TEACHING MATERIALS
Investigating the Top of the Water Column (PDF, 508 K)
These pages include instructions on how to make a plankton net and take a water sample in a coastal location. Also included are several safety tips and examples of organisms you might find.
Prepare your tool set. Collect the following tools before heading to the sample site:
- One or two glass or clear plastic containers for collecting samples. You'll use these to take a closer look at some of the things you'll find. Flat-sided containers are best, but jars are fine, too.
- A magnifying glass or hand lens.
- A plankton net. (Instructions for making your own net are included in the teaching materials above.)
- A small notebook for keeping notes on your observations.
- A pad or tarp, so you can comfortably kneel or lie on your stomach to get a good look down into the water.
- One or more field guides to the marine or seashore life in your region, so you can identify the things you see (there are many good guides to marine life; ask your librarian for help selecting some).
- You also may want to bring a camera and/or sketchpad.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
This exercise was developed by NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration.
This presentation explains how to visit a coastal location to observe the organisms that live near the water surface.