Coastal Ecosystems

Teacher Guide: Chemistry in an Estuary

May 24, 2011, 7:07 pm
Source: NOAA


In this activity, students investigate water quality parameters to study the nature of, and the cyclical changes inherent in, the chemistry of estuarine water. Students study key water quality factors at several stations in a single reserve over time—current, daily, and yearly time scales. Students also compare water quality values over a yearly time scale in three different estuaries within NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERR) —South Slough NERR, Oregon; Delaware NERR; and Old Woman Creek NERR, Ohio. Then students take water quality measurements at a site near them and compare their data to the water in the three geographically diverse NERR estuarine environments.


Students will be able to:

  1. Describe how different chemical and physical  properties affect and interact within an estuarine  environment.
  2. Explain how analyzing chemical and physical water quality data can lead to an understanding of estuary dynamics.
  3. Name and describe four basic water quality  monitoring parameters—pH, dissolved oxygen,  salinity (conductivity) and temperature.
  4. Explain how change in chemical water quality is  evidence for change in the estuary system.


Teaching Time: 5 class sessions (55 minutes) + homework

Organization of the Activity: This activity consists of 5 parts which help deepen understanding of estuarine systems:

  1. What is an Estuary?
  2. Investigating Water Quality in an Estuary
  3. Investigating Water Quality Over a Day
  4. Investigating Water Quality Over a Year
  5. Comparing Water Quality Data Between Two Different Estuarine Environments


Teacher Guide-Physical Science Module
Activity: Chemistry in an Estuary



Nomack, M. (2011). Teacher Guide: Chemistry in an Estuary. Retrieved from


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