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Lori Roberts is a high school biology teacher in Muscle
Shoals, Alabama. Lori is a leader in ocean education and is a graduate
of National Geographic Education’s two-year professional development
program, the National Teacher Leadership Academy.
The more we explore the ocean, the better we understand the need for conservation efforts. Expeditions like DEEPSEA CHALLENGE can shed light on a dark topic and hopefully make the public aware that our ocean is in trouble. I approach this topic from the bottom-up in my biology classroom. I teach trophic levels, which are the positions that organisms inhabit within food chains. The ultimate energy source for Earth is our sun, and energy flows from this source through the trophic levels: from producers, to consumers, and then to decomposers. Every link in a chain is vital to sustain life in the ocean web. I tell my students that their actions matter, that their choices have an impact. After all, we are all consumers, and consumers determine what is available in the marketplace.
Life can rebound after a natural disaster (a type of density-independent limiting factor). While on a trip to Fort Pickens National Park near Pensacola, Florida, I took a picture of an osprey on its nest. It gave me hope. Ospreys are large birds that feed almost exclusively on fish. They inhabit coastal regions, and were once on the endangered species list. The nest pictured below is at the top of the remnant of a pine tree, in what used to be a small coastal forest. This part of the Gulf Islands National Park was almost destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The return of the osprey shows that life can rebound. But, once it is completely gone, it is history–like the dodo bird.