Biomagnification Activity from the Monterey Bay Aquarium

I really like this biomagnification activity from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I discovered this activity in a Monterey Bay Aquarium workshop at a conference I attended a couple of years ago.  Its accessible for different levels of learners in regular NGSS Biology and regular Environmental science and has enough technical science for AP® kids.

The materials are easy to use and cheap. My school laminates for me to make the items durable for many years.

This activity focuses on POPs-Persistent Organic Pollutants and then plastic pollution in the ocean, but we discuss mercury pollution in top predatory fish as well.

How to do the Biomagnification Activity

The instructions from the Monterey Bay Aquarium are easy to follow,  but here are some pictures that may also help.

Each student gets a card. The instructions tell you the correct proportions for your class size. Each trophic level hunts at the same time.
These are ocean “molecule” cards.

I use the center lab table in my lab, but you can do this outside or inside on the floor. I spread them out and don’t worry about turning them all over. I tell students they can only “hunt” with one hand and place the molecules in the other hand.

A sample of molecules that were picked up and counted,

Students need to tally their POPs only. Then, they write their POP total on a mini post-it note.

The first round is all the phytoplankton–about (15-20 students). The second round is all the zooplankton (about 8-9 students), then the sardines (5-6 students), salmon (2-3 students) and finally 1 human. After the phytoplankton hunt, the other hunters during their round take the tally of POPs on the mini post-it-note from the previous trophic level and then continue to hunt on the table.

Sample data from a “Salmon”

After the simulation, students answer questions, read and annotate/highlight.

A nice leveled reading for students

I make copies of pages 8-10 of the document for my students. This is nice, easy and meaningful biomagnification activity for my students and leads well into Water Quality. 

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