Nearly half of all the people on Earth live within 100 km of the coastline, and human population is growing fastest in these regions.  Part of the reason the coastal environment is changing is because of human activities that include fishing, shipping, and recreation.  At the same time global climate change is stressing coastal aquatic ecosystems.  Sea level is rising, the oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic, and in some regions the water cycle is very different than in the past.  All these changes are sometimes bad for human health, and they also threaten the health of marine ecosystems.  In the future these ecosystems may not be able to support the same types of marine life or be an enjoyable place to swim and boat.  A critical step towards understanding all the changes that are occurring is to have an ocean observing system that is widespread and continually collecting data.  This allows scientists to rapidly detect changes in coastal ecosystems. 

The following web module is the work of COSEE Coastal Trends and is modified from a teacher professional development institute. Browse the tabs to learn more about how scientists observe the ocean, to explore ocean movement, to learn about how the ocean affects climate and weather, and to examine marine life. If you are a teacher interested in incorporating Observing the Ocean lessons into your science classroom, check out the "Access Classroom Resources" tab. Here you can find a series of activities that support the content of the module pages and meet National Science Education Standards.

Credits: Dr. Laura Murray, Dr. Deidre Gibson, Dr. Tom Malone, Desmond Johns, Dr. Tim Carruthers, Joanna Woerner, Cassie Gurbisz, Dr. Adrian Jones, Dr. Bill Boicourt, COSEE-West, COSEE-Great Lakes, COSEE-Southeast

Teacher Reviewers: Christina Engen, Joan Macomber, Kin Mack, Kris Jensen, Angie Ward, Kelly Sears, Ken Halperin, Elizabeth Martz, Dominique Evans-Bye, Kathy Bosiak, Bob PerryThese materials were developed and reviewed by research scientists. These materials were developed and reviewed by teachers.