Rutgers University Problem

Do fish in the ocean have favorite places?

Investigation Explanation Journal COOL New Terms Index Unit Plan Back to COOL Classroom

Fish Migration

1) Waves in the Atlantic Ocean

This page shows students how to enter information into their journal. Students can review their answers by clicking on “My Journal” in the left navigation bar.

2) Group Discussion - Swimming

Students should start to look for patterns in their answers. Did everyone choose a place they swim during only the summer months and forgot to think about winter?

3) Class Discussion - Swimming

Guide students to look for patterns in their information. Did everyone pick the exact same place ~ like the town pool? Or are there some people who have their own pools? Do students go to the beach in the summer?

What about the winter months? Is there an indoor pool to use or is the weather still conducive to swimming outside?

In cold climates, people usually just stop swimming. But what if you HAD to swim (much like a fish). Do people go somewhere special to enjoy swimming during the winter months? The Atlantic Ocean in the video is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit during winter (which is why surfers wear THICK wetsuits with hoods, gloves and boots and even then are still QUITE COLD.

Did any of your students mention traveling to a warm place to swim during the winter months? Many people from New Jersey travel to Florida or the Caribbean islands during the winter.

4) What about Fish?

Students are not expected to know the correct answer to the journal question at this time. A big part of scientific reasoning is forming an idea and being able to explain where that idea came from. This journal prompt is trying to get students to identify what evidence supports their ideas.

5) Where are the Fish?

6) Tagging Fish

Students will see where the incision is made to insert the tag and how the process of acoustic tags works in the Fish Tagging Activity in the following slides.

7) Group Discussion - Tagging Fish

By using acoustic tags on the fish, scientists can hear the fish even when they cannot see them. Each tag contains a battery, which powers a tiny speaker called a transmitter that produces a series of pulsing sounds. Each tag produces a different pattern of these pulsing sounds, which becomes an identification code for the fish in which it is implanted, like a fingerprint. The noise is ultrasonic – so high that the human ear cannot hear it. Hydrophones, however, can detect this noise. Hydrophones are located at various checkpoints in the ocean, in the estuary, and in the river of the Rutgers University study site in the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JCNERR). Each time a hydrophone “hears” a tagged fish passing a checkpoint, it radios the detected code back to a central receiving station, where a computer identifies the fish and records its location.

8) Tag a Striped Bass

Once a big enough bass is caught, the students will be led thru the steps of the tagging process. If they can’t catch a big one, move to the center of the screen and try again. Make sure the students choose “Tag this fish” when the option comes up rather than “Continue.” (That would let them keep fishing instead of learning how the tagging process works.) At the end, it is not necessary to log your own data. Data will be provided in the lesson.

9) Track a Striped Bass

First, have the students read through the top interactive to learn about how the acoustic tags and buoy receivers work.

If you are interested in doing the hands-on activity to demonstrate to students how the tags work, then we recommend doing it between these two interactives.

Then, have the students move their fish through the bottom interactive to collect data about fish movements. The signal only travels a certain distance from the fish. Just like you can’t hear someone yelling from far away, the buoy won’t hear the signal from far away. If the student moves their fish VERY fast, they may actually visit a buoy but not be near it when the signal “pings.” In this activity, the fish tag pings every 3 seconds.

When the students finish moving their fish around, make sure they click on “Show Data” to see their data. If there is a gap in time in their data table, then the fish wasn’t close enough to any buoy to be heard during that time. The students should print out their data (as a note it will NOT have their names on it) to use to make their histograms.

10) StiperTracker Research Project Results

This is a map of the buoy locations from the Rutgers University Striped Bass tagging project. It may be helpful to orient your students to the map by explaining the bottom left map of New Jersey and how the study area has been enlarged so that we can see the buoy locations.

11) Water Temperatures for Striped Bass

Point out to students that the BEST water temperature range for adult Striped Bass is 20-23 C; however, at different stages in their lives, they prefer other temperatures, and even as adults, they can survive in other water temperatures. These temperatures are not preferred, but the fish can tolerate them.

12) Finding Fish without Tags

A scale bar for the color is not included in this image. Warm water is red, cold water is blue. The white strip in between the two colors represents water temperatures in the middle of warm and cold. If students ask about the white area, please make sure they know that the white at the very top is actually snow in Greenland and at the very bottom is Antarctica.

13) How to Read a SST Map

The rainbow color scale is used to show the different ocean temperatures along the top millimeter of the water. The range and scale changes daily based on the data. So the color red may equal 80 degrees on a summer image, but it may equal 60 degrees in a winter image. So a specific color does NOT always have the same value.

14) SST Map Up Close

The white area on this image is due to cloud cover.

To answer the journal question, students will need to read the scale bar for color along the right side of the image and then match the color off of New Jersey to the scale bar to determine the water temperature. If your students are struggling with this, you can lead this activity as a class and then have them write the answer and an explanation of how they got that answer in their journals.

15) Today's SST Map

In order to get the most complete image possible, at the end of each day a composite SST map is created by combining data from several satellites. So the image shown on this page will be from yesterday. If there appears to be data missing, then chances are the area was blocked by clouds for the whole day.

If you would like to see today’s image, click on the link along the bottom of the page Satellite Imagery Sea Surface Temperature. To see the entire east coast click in the lower right box. To get the Northeast, which is the area we’ll be looking at, click on the top box shaded maroon. Often the map looks incomplete because it is data from one satellite pass or has white blotches due to cloud interference. You can go back in time by using the dates pull-down, choose the date range, then click on Select along the bottom of that blue box. It may take a few moments to load.

16) SST Map to Find Fish

Students may have difficulty expressing in words where they think the fish may be. Remind the students that fish do not swim in just one place, but rather an area of the ocean. Students need to use the information they learned about the preferred temperature of 20-23C to answer the journal question.

It might be helpful to make a copy this page, by going to the Unit Plan and accessing this picture in PowerPoint, and laminate the copy. Then the students could use a dry erase marker to outline the areas that they think the Striped Bass would be swimming. Students will be coming back to this image several times to refine their ideas as they learn more.

17) Group Discussion - SST Map & Fish

It is important for students to learn that a large part of science is sharing ideas with one another and then refining your ideas based upon evidence and arguments that other scientists make. In this class discussion, encourage the students to work with one another to express their ideas, the evidence they used, and to learn from one another. By the end of the group discussion the students should come to a consensus on where Striped Bass would be swimming on July 25, 2012.

18) SST Map to Find Fish (Part 2)

Students may want to revise their answers about what they think of where Striped Bass could be found, now that they’ve had the chance to talk to other students ~ sift through others’ ideas. Encourage them to explain why or why not they are changing their ideas.

If students are interested in looking at data from different times of year, encourage them to visit the Rutgers University Satellite Imagery for Sea Surface Temperature website. Just remind students that, the larger the date range they select to look at, the longer the load time before they get to see the map.

19) Temperature & Time to Find Fish

This interactive has two components: 1) the students need to read data from 3 graphs to determine which months have the Best Water Temperatures for Striped Bass in each location and 2) the students take that data and plot it on the map by moving the appropriate month to each location and connecting the months chronologically to draw out the migration path of the Striped Bass. Depending on the skill level of your students with these tasks, you will need to decide how much to lead as a class activity vs. student activity.

To access the Best Water Temperatures data, the students will need to click on each location triangle, click on the Best Water Temp button (yellow) to have the yellow band appear on their graphs, click on the Months at 20-23C button (blue) to have the blue bars appear on their graphs, read where the blue bars intersect the x-axis to figure out which months have that temperature, and then make check marks (by clicking) in the appropriate location column and month row to record that data. Once the students have put in all the check marks, have them click on “TABLE COMPLETE!”

Next, the students will need to move the months onto the map near each location (in the ocean) to demonstrate what months each location has the Best Water Temperatures for Striped Bass. Then by clicking on the crayon and clicking on the map the students will draw a line connecting all of the months to make the migration path for the Striped Bass. Once they have finished, have them enter their names and print their maps.

We have provided worksheets if you would like your students to graph the data by hand. This is the time to have them stop with the online activity and begin to graph if you choose that option.

20) Where are Striped Bass in the Year?

Lead the students in a discussion about their results from drawing out the path that Striped Bass take along the eastern seaboard from May through November.

Ask the students if they agree where the fish are swimming? Towards the end of the activity ask the students what they think the Striped Bass do in the winter months (December-April). Be accepting of all answers, this is just a brainstorm question as they will learn about Striped Bass migration in two pages.

21) Animals Migrate

This prompt is to help students relate the migration path they just created from water temperature data and Striped Bass behavior with the migration paths of other organisms that they may be more familiar with (e.g., birds) to emphasize the concept of migration.

Migration is the seasonal movement of a population of animals from one area to another. Migration is usually a response to changes in temperature, food supply, or the amount of daylight, and is often undertaken for the purpose of breeding (from American Heritage Science Dictionary).

22) Striped Bass Migration Path

Help the students see the similarities between their migration paths and the map of the scientists for Striped Bass. Talk with the students about how far off shore the arrows are on the scientist map and what that means for the depth that Striped Bass may be swimming at (they tend to move deeper in the winter months).

23) Is Temperature the Only Factor?

This is a prompt to help students make the transition from all of their knowledge about the relationship between Striped Bass and water temperatures and the students’ previous knowledge that animals need food, water, shelter, and space to survive. They should not know the answer as to specifically what else Striped Bass need, but they should be able to think about what other factors might influence where Striped Bass live/swim.

24) Striped Bass Need Food Too

25) Marine Food Web

This movie was created to provide students with an understanding of the parts of the marine food web that a Striped Bass is connected to.

The Discovery “First Look at Phytoplankton” is a quick overview which will link students to on online cartoon-illustrated site which was professionally written and illustrated for Rutgers Science. When in the site if they click on the white bubbles along the left edge, they can access all the pieces.

26) Phytoplankton do Photosynthesis

It is important for students to understand that phytoplankton are not plants, but rather are plant-like. Plants have roots that take in nutrients from the ground, phytoplankton do not have roots. However, phytoplankton use the Sun’s energy to make their food (sugars) the same way plants do through photosynthesis. Also it is important for students to understand that plants and phytoplankton both have chlorophyll (a green pigment that allows plants to absorb energy from Sun light).

27) Finding Phytoplankton from Space

This is a aerial photo of the land and ocean around Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Students might need help understanding that the patch of green is not one large plant but rather millions of phytoplankton that are all together in the same area. Also, you may need to explain to your students the difference between an aerial photograph (taken from a plane) and a satellite image (taken from a satellite).

28) Reading a Phytoplankton Map

The green arrow points to the same phytoplankton patch in each image. The image on the right is actually a satellite image of chlorophyll not plankton. This is explained more on the next page.

29) Phytoplankton Map to Find Fish

Your more observant students may notice that the satellite image is actually of chlorophyll data not phytoplankton. The satellites can detect chlorophyll. We know that plankton have chlorophyll in them, SO more chlorophyll means more plankton. So to keep it simple, we just are calling it plankton.

If this does come up, you can use the example of looking down from a mountain at night and seeing lots of headlights. You can’t see the cars, but you know they are there because you see the headlights. The more headlights, the more cars.

Students should be able to read the color scale bar and remember that red means lots of plankton (really chlorophyll in the plankton). Using that knowledge they can describe where there are lots of phytoplankton from the data on the Chlorophyll map.

30) Finding Fish: Temperature AND Food

As scientists gather more information they need to be able to look across all of the data and refine their ideas. This prompt is asking your students to do the same thing. Help your students to see the overlay of the preferred temperature and the large amounts of chlorophyll.

The white area in the chlorophyll image is where clouds blocked the satellite. The reason the SST image doesn’t show the clouds is that this image is a composite of data from 3 different satellites allowing for “de-clouding” of the image.

31) Finding Fish (Part 2)

Students look back to their original idea about where the Striped Bass may be and compare it to their refined idea. Just as scientists’ understanding of concepts is refined by new information, so was their understanding of where the fish may be as they learned more. It’s powerful if students figure this out themselves and recognize their learning.

32) Class Discussion - Finding Fish

Once the students have made their own decisions about refining their answers of where Striped Bass would be swimming in the ocean, lead a class discussion to have the students share their ideas and reflect on how their ideas changed as they learned more information about Striped Bass and the environment.

33) Satellite Tracking Extension

This is an extension page.

TOPP is a good visual website. It may be easy for students to get “lost” as they click through different areas. See Related Activities tab for suggestions on how students can navigate this site.

Wildlife Tracking has an outstanding movie (the 2nd one down “Adelita’s Journey”) showing a loggerhead sea turtle swimming with her satellite tracker attached and a map of her journey from Baja, California across the Pacific Ocean. Skip the first movie (8 minutes long) “Swim with Adelita.”

ACES site has buttons across the top to add bathymetric, sea surface temperature, or phytoplankton data to the positioning data.

Atlantic Ocean Sea Turtles (Sea Turtle Conservancy) has an educator’s guide that can be downloaded after registering. It includes a Webquest, mazes, a word search and several activities. The site also has a Kid’s Section called Turtle Tides. There are turtle bios and individual track maps shown in a similar format as the track students created in the interactive.

WhaleNet is tracking seals off New England. The homepage is rather confusing, so the link is to an information page. When students click on tracks, they can see it in either a Google Earth map format or a line showing where the seal has been. This site has a good teacher section with info sheets and activities. Blank maps for tracking seals are available at:

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