This is the second of a four day lesson plan in the Unit Plankton Ecology. The laboratory activity introduces three main groups of phytoplankton: diatoms, dinoflagellates and flagellates. Students observe phytoplankton up-close and live, so that unique characteristics, such as morphology and behavior, can be seen and interpreted within an ecological context. The Laboratory Teacher instructions detail the lab activity, as well as the resources necessary to obtain the pertinent materials.

  • Practice the scientific traits of observation and hypothesis creation.
  • Apply previous learned knowledge in lecture to determine the identity of the phytoplankton organisms observed under the microscope.
  • The goal of this laboratory activity is to observe and draw phytoplankton, answer questions based on the lecture, guess the identity of these phytoplankters and speculate on their ecology.
  • Students are put into groups and follow instructions detailed on the Plankton Lab Guide. The students observe three mystery phytoplankton groups and based on the knowledge retained from the lecture of the previous day along with observations, must guess which group of phytoplankton corresponds to each mystery sample. The teacher instructions, as well as the resources for materials necessary for this laboratory can be found in Laboratory Teacher Instructions. Once the laboratory practice has ended and the lab guide completed a class discussion covering the different observations follows. Students share their observations as well as the reasons behind their assignment of each mystery phytoplankton to specific groups. The link between zooplankton and phytoplankton, as well as the trophic relationships involved in the pelagic food web is the final topic of discussion. Students are invited to draw the pelagic food web on the board, and explain the importance of the different links between types of organisms.
  • This activity was designed for high school Marine Science and Biology students. The goal of this lesson is to learn to observe microscopic organisms, speculate on their ecology and practice scientific traits such as observation and hypothesis formulation.
  • The Plankton Lab Guide is collected and graded for assessment of understanding of the lesson.

Sea Surface Chlorophyll in June

Sea Surface Chlorophyll in December

Lesson Materials
Related Phytoplankton Lessons
Lesson Specifics
  • Grade Level: High School Marine Science and Biology Students

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