A 'Big Blue Live' Look at Marine Life
In a three-part television series from PBS and BBC, viewers tune in to an amazing ecosystem off the coast of Northern California where all kinds of migrating animals stop to feed and refuel. Students and classes can explore environmental issues, marine life, the science of habitats and migration, and other related science questions with hands-on STEM education projects.
Sea otters and whales and ecosystems, oh my! Thousands of viewers tuned in over the last two nights for the first two episodes of PBS' three-night series "Big Blue Live." Fans of reality TV shows like "Big Brother" got a taste of something completely different with the live nature show. The program, in partnership with BBC and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, aims to showcase the diverse population of marine animals currently resting, feeding, living, or passing through the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, some of which were in recent years on endangered species lists, and raise awareness about environmental and conservation issues. The series, hosted by scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan and scientific journalist Liz Bonnin, gives viewers a look at the beauty of an ecosystem in action specifically at a time of year when the migratory paths of multiple species converge off the coast of Northern California.
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which runs 276 miles along the coast and covers 4,601 square nautical miles of ocean, is home at times of the year to 34 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, more than 500 species of fish, and more than 450 species of marine algae. A few varieties of turtles and more than thirty types of invertebrates round out the mix of marine life that, at times, takes up residence or passes through the marine sanctuary.
As with any live TV broadcast, even producers and hosts couldn't be sure what might happen or what might swim into view during one of the broadcasts, but viewers tuned in to find out. Creatures that might show up on camera during "Big Blue Live" filming include Blue whales, Elephant seals, Risso's dolphins, California sea lions, Humpback whales, Laysan albatross, Brown pelicans, Southern sea otters, White sharks, and more. Tonight, September 2, is the final episode of the three-night series. Viewers can watch live on the PBS site, and the first two episodes are available for online viewing. (Previous BBC "Big Blue Live" episodes are available on the BBC site.)
Social media during the PBS "Big Blue Live" television blitz has churned out more than 80,000 posts, with viewers commenting about the show, sharing related marine science material, and otherwise coming together in support of marine life science, conservation, and stewardship. Join in or follow along with the #BigBlueLive hashtag and the official BBC Big Blue Live Twitter stream.
Student Science Connections
Students interested in learning more about science related to marine life and to environmental questions, issues, and topics showcased in "Big Blue Live" may enjoy exploring science fair projects like these:
- Making Species Maps: what species can you identify in a local habitat? Can you create a species map of a marine habitat like the one shown in "Big Blue Live"?
- Primary Productivity and Plankton: learn how to collect and observe plankton for a better understanding of the range of microscopic marine life present in a habitat.
- Finding Phyla: learn how to explore and classify the biodiversity in your neighborhood or area. See also: Biodiversity Survey *. Can you piece together a biodiversity profile of the marine habitat seen in "Big Blue Live"?
- M&M Survival Challenge: get a better understanding of how adaptations like camouflage help improve a species' chances for survival. What kinds of color-based adaptations can you identify in a marine habitat?
- Can You Predict a Bird's Lifestyle Based on Its Feet?: explore the clues a bird's feet offer about its lifestyle and habitat. What kinds of feet do seabirds and shorebirds have?
- The Swimming Secrets of Duck Feet: explore feet adaptations in water birds to better understand how features may evolve specific to a habitat.
- Do Your Storm Drains Keep the Ocean Trash Free?: investigate local grated storm drain inlets to see if they are effective and design and test alternative solutions.
- Go Fish! Creating an Ocean-Friendly Fishing Video Game: couple video game design with environmental science to develop an educational game to build awareness about the dangers of overfishing and the importance of helping maintain healthy fish populations.
- Do Migratory Birds Like It Hot?: what birds migrate and why? A large number of birds make the list of species in the Monterey Bay. Investigate to find out if these birds are year-round residents or if some of them pass through the area during migration.
- Bioluminescence: Investigating Glow-in-the-Dark Dinoflagellates: learn more about bioluminescence and the chemistry behind organisms that produce light as a biochemical response.
- Track the Journey of Harbor Porpoises: explore the science of migration through a project focused on harbor porpoises. Which animals spotted in "Big Blue Live" are migratory? Can you do a similar migration tracking project on another marine species?
- Harmful Algal Blooms in the Chesapeake Bay: the issues, testing, and data analysis in this project offer a great way for students to consider evaluation of the health of a marine habitat.
- Swimming in Acid: Understanding Ocean Acidification: understand the risks of acidification to a marine habitat and ecosystem.
- Use DNA Sequencing to Trace the Blue Whale's Evolutionary Tree: use genomics tools to explore the evolution of blue whales and discover which living creatures are their closest relatives.
A Career in Marine Science
Students interested in science, conservation, research, and exploration related to "Big Blue Live" may wish to learn more about these science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career paths: