Students will use recent and live data from buoys and oceanographic research vessels to explore both natural and anthropogenic factors on oceanic pH.


This activity was written with a middle school audience in mind, and provides an introduction to ocean acidification using a video from the California Academy of Sciences. After the introduction, students are guided through a yearlong, seasonal sampling of 1 or more bodies of water in their geographical area (the Pacific Coast of Northwest Oregon is the one used in the lesson).  Next, students use data collected from a buoy off the coast of Washington state to analyze and interpret possible cause and effect of changing patterns in pH levels in the ocean.  Finally, students will create a hypothesis and ask a question regarding ocean acidity levels as a jump-off point for their year long investigation.


Assuming teacher has introduced basic concepts of climate change (NASA), ocean acidification and environmental impacts (CA Academy of Sciences) and the pH scale (CU Boulder PhET simulation), students will explore recent and live data from buoys and oceanographic research vessels (scientists doing science) – including calculating mean/median of a data set (reinforcing basic statistics, reading and interpreting data and graphs), making predictions about pH (claim/evidence/reasoning), understanding both natural and anthropogenic factors on oceanic pH (variables in science), and reviewing known impacts to marine ecosystems.  



Annie Forman & Erik Fowler

High School Lesson

Additional Resources

Next Generation Science Standards

Crosscutting Concepts
  • Cause and effect
  • Stability and change
Core Ideas
  • PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
  • ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concepts

  • 6.E: Humans affect the ocean in a variety of ways. Laws, regulations and resource management affect what is taken out and put into the ocean. Human development and activity leads to pollution (point source, non-point source, and noise pollution) and physical modifications (changes to beaches, shores and rivers). In addition, humans have removed most of the large vertebrates from the ocean.