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Station 4: Investigating Plankton

At this station students will learn how to collect plankton, specifically the free-floating microscopic plants and animals commonly found in the Rhode River. Plankton "go with the flow," drifting wherever the currents take them. At this station, students will learn about the two types of plankton: phytoplankton an zooplankto and learn how to survey plankton using microscopes.

Phytoplankton can be divided into algae and cyanobacteria (plant-like) one celled creatures, and they are the beginning of the Chesapeake Bay food web. Just like land plants, they need light, water and carbon dioxide to carry on photosynthesis, giving off oxygen which is used by other aquatic organisms.

Zooplankton are animals such as newly hatched crabs, larvae and invertebrates that float freely with the tides. Some animals are only zooplankton for part of their life cycle (meroplankton), but some zooplankton (holoplankton) remain tiny and will never grow beyond this microscopic size.

Plankton are eaten by small fish, jellyfish and filter feeding bivalves, such as oysters, clams and mussels, which in turn are eaten by larger fish and other predators.

 > Objectives


    • Collect a sample of plankton from the Rhode River using a plankton tow
    • Demonstrate the difference between pervious and impervious surfaces on the way up to the classroom
    • Discuss the points below in the classroom
    • Survey plankton diversity using the microscopes 

 > Discuss:

    • The difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton
    • Photosynthesis, and that over 70% of the world's oxygen comes from phytoplankton doing photosynthesis
    • The aquatic food web with phytoplankton producers at the bottom using the food chain across the wall
    • The diversity of types of plankton: diatoms and dinoflagellates, plankton that stay plankton and plankton that grow and develop into other types of orgranisms

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 > Content Standards

> Maryland Content Standards
Investigating Plankton Science Indicators:
1.0 Skills & Processes: 1.5.4, 1.5.5, 1.5.11
3.0 Life Science: 3.5.12, 3.5.13
6.0 Environmental Science: 6.5.2, 6.5.3

> Virginia Standards of Learning 
Investigating Plankton Science Indicators:
Scientific Investigation, Reason & Logic: 5.1, 5.6
Living Systems: 4.5
Resources: 4.8

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