rockfishAny aspect of the physical environment that affects living organisms is called a “physical factor.” Aquatic organisms are greatly affected by various physical factors such as temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, depth, and several others. In the open and coastal ocean, temperature can be a strong determinate of animal distribution. This web-based activity uses ocean temperatures to determine the distribution of marine organisms. In this exercise, you will investigate the influence of ocean temperature on marine organism distribution.

You can either use the instructions, web links, and questions provided on this web page or download the same information in the Student Worksheet word document from the Lesson Resources section.



1. Go to the National Data Buoy Center to locate offshore water temperatures at the following locations:

New York
South Carolina
Florida (Miami)
Chesapeake Bay

2. The table below describes the optimal temperature ranges for these marine organisms. Using the data from the above table, determine the potential location of the organism.

Organism NameOptimal Temperature (°C)Potential Location
White Perch10-30______________________
Striped Bass18-23______________________
American Lobster8-14______________________
Florida (spiny) Lobster22-26______________________
Widgeon Grass5-30______________________

3. Answer the following questions:

Application to Climate Changeclimate change graph

Study the graph to the right (source: NASA), which shows the changes (anomaly is the temperature above or below the average temperature) in land and ocean temperature from 1880 to present.  Use the graph to determine the rate of change of ocean temperature over the past 50 years. 

Rate of ocean temperature change:____________________

If this rate of change remains the same, predict the change in temperature in the next 50 years and 100 years.

Temperature change in 50 years:______________________

Temperature change in 100 years:_____________________

Answer the following questions:

Lesson Resources

word iconStudent Worksheet