|What are different experiments that can be
conducted on local shorelines for a science fair
|Question Date: 2004-02-26|
You could do all kinds of things.
could:-Try to measure the abundances of different
life forms on the shoreline (an ecology
-Try to measure whether a given
species is found only in specific locations (and
if so, which) along the shoreline (another ecology
-Measure when certain spots protected
in tide pools or behind cliffs, etc. are under
water with the tides (an astronomy/planetary
-Measure the pH of the mud as
a function of depth under the ground surface at a
given location on a mudflat (a geochemistry
-Measure the difference in weight
between wet sand and dry sand at different levels
of the beach, and thus calculate the amount of
water within (a hydrology project).
For the local shoreline project, I can suggest
doing an experiment measuring the speeds of the
longshore current and longshore drift.
of these are discussed in oceanography textbooks.I
found this experiment for measuring the speed of
the longshore current From
You can determine the speed of
the longshore current by conducting the following
simple group experiment.
You will need a meter
stick (or other measuring device) an orange or
two, a watch with a second hand and a group of
students. Use the other side of this worksheet to
enter and calculate your data.
Measure off and draw a ten-meter line in the
sand parallel to the ocean.Position one student at
each end of the line you have drawn. Position
everyone else along the line. One student should
assume the role of timekeeper and have a watch
with a second hand.
Throw an orange (or a piece
of driftwood) into the water, just behind the line
of breakers, approximately 2 meters SOUTH of the
beginning of your line. Note: The longshore
current is closer to the shore than you might
expect! All students should watch the orange as it
When the orange passes the beginning of
the line the timekeeper should start
When the orange passes the person
stationed at the end of the line, he or she should
tell the timekeeper to stop timing. Record time on
If time permits, repeat this
process again so you can calculate the average of
the two (or three) trials.
Calculate the speed
of the longshore current for both trials, and then
calculate the average of the longshore current
This procedure is NOT fool proof. If
your orange does not move north after a few
minutes, try again. If you cannot get this to work
at all, it may be due to weather conditions. Try
Well, to answer your question broadly, there are
literally thousands of projects that one can do on
It sounds like you are
looking for a field-based project, one where most
of your data is collected from real coastal
settings rather than collecting specimens or
samples and bringing them into controlled
An easy way to start considering
these systems is by thinking ecologically.
For example, what types of plants/animals/algae
are in local coastal habitats? Does the
diversity/abundance/size/etc of species differ
between different types of shoreline (rocky,
sandy, mud, protected, shaded, etc), or between
different tidal heights (high on the shore vs.
lower on the shore).
You could easily pick a
couple types of organisms and follow them across
various sites. Perhaps you can try to put them
into a bigger picture - how do your findings
relate to what we know about predator/prey
relationships? Can you relate the findings to
location differences (areas that get different
amounts of human activity, or with differing
proximity to industrial areas like marinas or
sewer run-off sites, etc)?
You could also look
at the characteristics of habitats themselves -
for example, you could examine tidepools of
different sizes/sun v. shade/depth and measure how
quickly they heat up during low tides on sunny
days and cloudy days, and the different numbers
and kinds of organisms found in each one.
could look at water differences, like salinity or
chemicals in various areas. Or collect water
samples and observe the resident plankton
densities/diversity under a microscope and relate
it to the organisms on that shoreline, or to
currents and the area's exposure to open ocean
Most of these ideas are
ecology-based (since I am an ecologist), but there
are plenty of other directions you can go in
depending on your personal interests. Maybe you
can just take an hour or two and go to your local
beach and see what catches your eye. You can get a
lot of really interesting information about
coastal areas by taking the time to bend down and
look closely at the marine life there. Then you
can start thinking about how an organism's
survival is affected by its biological and
physical interactions with its
Wow, there's a whole range of things you could do!
You could survey the distribution (high/low
shore, or sandy/rocky beaches, or wavy/protected
areas) and abundance (ie # organisms per unit
area) of shoreline plants and animals, and see how
these distributions change as you go to different
You could measure the growth of small
sessile (non-moving) invertebrates like barnacles
or mussels or algae by measuring them at repeated
intervals of time. Since spring is coming, you
could look at the recruitment (appearance) of new
organisms on rocky shores over a period of a
couple of months and see what species appear and
what their densities (# organisms per unit area) are.
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