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A Climate Conundrum

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SUBJECT AREA
Life Science

GRADE LEVEL
5-8

ESTIMATED TIME
Two class periods

OBJECTIVES:
Students will be able to:

  • describe how turtle populations may be affected by climate change.
  • develop a solution to the problems turtles could face as a result of climate change.

MATERIALS:

BACKGROUND:
Please read the article "Turtles Take the Heat," on the Ocean Adventures Web site at www.pbs.org/kqed/oceanadventures/episodes/
amazon/indepth-turtles.html

For information on climate change, visit the EPA's Climate Change Web site at www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html.

PROCEDURE:

  1. Discuss the concept of climate change with your students. What is climate change? How could it affect our lives? How might it affect the lives of wild animals? Would it affect sea turtles? How? Freshwater turtles? How?
  2. View the short video "Hot Turtles" on the Ocean Adventures Web site (www.pbs.org/kqed/oceanadventures/video/hotturtles) with your students.
  3. Discuss what the students learned from the video about how climate change could skew the gender ratio in the Amazon River's turtle populations. Why would this happen? What would happen to the turtle populations as a result? Talk about how this issue isn't specific to river turtles in the Amazon, but concerns freshwater and sea turtles worldwide.
  4. Tell the students to imagine that they are scientists who are very concerned about the survival of turtle species, and as such, they must come up with a solution to help save turtle populations if we experience an increase in our average global temperature. Break students into groups of four or five and have them first discuss potential solutions, then decide which solution they think will work best. In designing their solutions, the students should keep the following in mind:
  • Turtles dig nests in the sand, and they lay their eggs at specific times during the year and usually at night.
  • The length of the incubation period of turtle eggs depends on the species, but it is usually several weeks.
  • The number of eggs a turtle lays also depends on the species, but can be up to 200.
  • Turtle eggs have many predators, including small mammals, lizards, birds and humans.
  1. Have each group use the poster board and art supplies to illustrate its agreed-upon solution.
  2. Have each group prepare a three- to five-minute presentation to share its solution with the entire class the following day.

You may wish to use part of the class period on the second day for students to complete their posters and prepare their presentations.

OPTIONAL:
In addition to or instead of having students create a poster, you may choose to have them do a computer-based presentation.

ASSESSMENT:
Did the students come up with a solution that would help save turtle populations? Did they clearly illustrate and describe their solution on their poster and in their presentation?

EXTENSION IDEAS:

  • Instead of having the students create man-made solutions, have them come up with specific characteristics and traits that would be beneficial for turtles to have with a change in average global temperature. (Through natural selection, which traits would become more common over time?)
  • Have students research the nesting behavior of a particular species of freshwater or sea turtle for use with this lesson.
  • Take a field trip to a local zoo, aquarium or other nature center that has river turtles or sea turtles on exhibit to learn more about them.

STANDARDS
National Science Education Standards Grades 5-8
www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/nses/6d.html#ls

LIFE SCIENCE
CONTENT STANDARD C:

Regulation and Behavior

  • All organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions while living in a constantly changing external environment.
  • An organism's behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. How a species moves, obtains food, reproduces and responds to danger is based in the species' evolutionary history.

Populations and Ecosystems

  • The number of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and abiotic factors, such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition. Given adequate biotic and abiotic resources and no disease or predators, populations (including humans) increase at rapid rates. A lack of resources and other factors, such as predation and climate, limit the growth of populations in specific niches in the ecosystem.

Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms

  • Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment.
  • Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient to allow its survival. Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. Extinction of species is common; most of the species that have lived on the earth no longer exist.

OCEAN LITERACY ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES AND FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS:
www.coexploration.org/oceanliteracy/

ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLE #6:
The ocean and humans are inextricably connected.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea Swensrud is the KQED Education Network Project Supervisor for Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. She has a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and has taught and managed marine science education programs. KQED Education Network uses the power of KQED Public Broadcasting to inspire learning by providing projects for youth and curriculum materials and professional development for teachers, child-care providers and families.

CREDITS:
Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures is produced by KQED Public Broadcasting and the Ocean Futures Society. The corporate sponsor is the Dow Chemical Company. Additional major support comes from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation, KQED Campaign for the Future, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.