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Introduction | The Task | The Process and Resources | Conclusion | HyperText Dictionary
IntroductionUnknown before 1977, hydrothermal vents, also known as 'black smokers', represent a unique environment on our Planet. In spite of their inaccessability, they continue to be the focus of much investigation and research, the results of which are helping to answer many scientific questions while providing more questions.
If you would like to read more about their discovery, visit Life without Light: Discoveries from the Abyss at ZooGoer Magazine.
The Web provides particularly good access to information about 'black smokers', with current information, many photographs, videos, animations and first hand accounts.
Each person on your team will investigate one aspect of the science of this unique environment and then you will come together to get a better understanding of the topic and the issues.
The TaskHow unique is the environment of the 'black smoker'? Will the constant exploration and research be detrimental to the ecology? Should the mineral wealth associated with 'black smokers' be exploited? Should such a unique ecological environment be conserved? Is ecotourism a possibility?
The Process and ResourcesIn this WebQuest you will be working together with a group of students in class. Each group will answer the Task or Quest(ion). As a member of the group you will explore Web pages from people all over the world who know about 'Black Smokers'. Because these are real Web pages we're tapping into, not things made just for schools, the reading level might challenge you. Feel free to use the online Webster dictionary or one in your classroom.
You'll begin with everyone in your group getting some background before dividing into roles where people on your team become experts on one part of the topic.
Phase 1 - Background: Something for EveryoneUse the Web information linked below to answer the basic questions of who? what? where? when? why? and how? Be creative in exploring the information so that you answer these questions as fully and insightfully as you can.
- 'Black Smokers' on the Sea Floor - brief description and images of how 'black smokers' form, from United States Geological Survey
- Black Smokers - an online expedition to 'black smokers' including life forms, formation, and oceanographic vessels, from American Museum of Natural History
- Exploration: Submarine Ring of Fire - an online exploration of the ocean floor with information on many related topics such as vent chemistry, accompanied by a image gallery, from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
- Lost City Expeditions - join an expedition aboard the research vessel Atlantis to the Lost City Hydrothermal Field on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
- Into the Abyss - from NOVA online from PBS online, this comprehensive site covers life in the abyss, oceanographic vessels and tools and a timeline of discovers in the deep, with images
- Ocean AdVENTure: From Deep Sea to Deep Space - an excellent ThinkQuest covering all aspects of this topic
- Black Smokers - from Savage Seas, PBS online
- Expedition Gallery: DISPATCHES FROM THE DEEP - a gallery of images (click to get enlarged image with caption) from The New York Times on the Web
- Oases on the ocean floor - from World Wildlife Foundation
- Scientists Discover Secrets of 'Lost City' - article accompanied by maps and photos of geology of a hydrothermal vent, from National Science Foundation
- Life's First Scalding Steps: Biology might have begun in cauldrons at the bottom of the sea - article from Science News, with diagrams and photos of rocks
- New type of hydrothermal vent looms large - article from Science News
- NEPTUNE Videos - gallery of Quicktime videos of hydrothermal vents and their ecology, from Washington State University
- Black Smoker Chimneys - from Access Excellence
Phase 2 - Looking Deeper from Different PerspectivesINSTRUCTIONS:
1. Individuals or pairs from your larger WebQuest team will explore one of the roles below.
2. Read through the files linked to your group. If you print out the files, underline the passages that you feel are the most important. If you look at the files on the computer, copy sections you feel are important by dragging the mouse across the passage and copying / pasting it into a word processor or other writing software.
3. Note: Remember to write down or copy/paste the URL of the file you take the passage from so you can quickly go back to it if you need to to prove your point and to include them in a bibliography..
GeochemistUse the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to geochemist:
1. Describe the chemical environment of 'black smokers'.
2. Explain why this environment exists at 'black smokers'.
3. Define 'chemosynthesis'.
4. Outline the role of a geochemist.
- Hydrothermal Environments on the Ocean Floor - part of a resource developed by Wayne County regional educational service agency on extreme environments
- Key chemical in life creation - ammonia - created at hydrothermal vents - a summary of an article published in Nature, from Spacenews
- Scientists Discover Novel Type of Hydrothermal Vent - short article from Scientific American News
- An anatomy of a Hydrothermal Vent - diagram and explanantion of a hydrothermal vent from Scientific American
- Hydrothermal Vent Geochemistry - comprehensive coverage of the chemistry of hydrothermal vents from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
- Hydrothermal Plume Studies - details of a project set up to investigate the distribution and evolution of hydrothermal plumes, from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
- Toxic Chemistry - covers chemosynthesis, bacteria and tools used to investigate the hydrothermal vents, from Extreme 2000: Voyage to the Deep, University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies
- Hydrothermal Vents - a number of interactive investigations that explore the formation of hydrothermal vents from Dive and Discover at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Hydrothermal Vents - interactives from Dive & Discover, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Hot Vents & Lava - excellent images from New Millenium Observatory, NOAA
- Chemosynthesis - from Extreme 2000, Voyage to the Deep, University of Delaware
- The emergence of life from iron sulphide compartments at a submarine hydrothermal redox and pH front - a detailed scientific article from Origin of Life Research at University of Glasgow
BiologistUse the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to biologist:
1. Identify six organisms that have been found around 'black smokers'. Describe these organisms and their feeding habits.
2. Clarify why scientists were surprised to find the variety and abundance of life in these areas.
3. Outline the food webs that have been found around 'black smokers'.
4. Outline the role of a marine biologist.
- Life with Toxic Sulfide - this illustrated talk from Access Excellence covers three environments including hydrothermal vents
- Hot Vents - from The Biological Sciences State University of New York at Stony Brook, has excellent images of vents, vent creatures and oceanographic vessels
- Scientists Learn How Tube Worms Colonize Hydrothermal Vents - short article from Scientific American News
- Exploring the deep ocean floor: Hot springs and strange creatures - brief notes but excellent images of vent organisms and oceanographic vessels, from United States Geological Survey
- Creature Features - life forms at a hydrothermal vent with images and movies, from Extreme 2000: Voyage to the Deep, University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies
- Life in the Extreme: Tubeworm - from Planet Ocean, DiscoverySchool.com
- The Origin of Life research project - from University of Glasgow
- Savage Earth: Black Smokers - from Savage Earth, PBS online
- Black Smokers and Giant Worms - good coverage of organisms and food chains at hydrothermal vents, from the Course World
- Life in Extreme Environments - movie from University of Delaware showing various life forms of the hydrothermal vents
- Beneath the Sea: Life Above Boiling - a Web feature from PBS Online, an interview with Bob Ballard the oceanographer who discovered 'black smokers'
- Habitats: Hydrothermal Vents - Hydrothermal Vent Life - from Office of Naval Research
- Creatures of the Thermal Vents - description of a variety of organisms found at hydrothermal vents, from Ocean Planet, Smithsonian Institute
- An Undersea Quest for New Life - a report from a 1997 expedition to investigate 'black smokers', from The New York Times on the Web
- Hydrothermal vents: Trophic relations - a university level PowerPoint presentation on vent life from Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, includes food webs
- Deep Sea Vents: Life at the Extreme - short article with excellent images from National Geographic Magazine with images
- Scientists Determine How Chemistry Keeps Weird Worms 'Out Of Hot Water' At Steaming Deep-Sea Vents - an article from the News Center at University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies
- Dendronotus comteti Valdés & Bouchet, 1998 - a rare creature from a hydrothermal vent, an Australian Museum site
- Creatures living around deep-sea vents in the South Pacific - an article from Venture Deep Ocean
- Deep sea aliens or long lost relatives? - short article with great images, from the Lab, ABC
- Vent Biology - life forms of the hydrothermal vents from Dive & Discover, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Life As We (Didn't) Know It - from Science@NASA
- Scientists Succeed at First-Ever Attempt to Sequence DNA at Sea - excellent photographs from National Science Foundation
- Vent Animals - from Access Excellence
OceanographerUse the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to oceanographer:
1. Explain the physical conditions (temperature, pressure, sea depth) in which 'black smokers are located.
2. Outline the types of vessels and research tools that are necessary for investigating the chemistry, biology and geology of 'black smokers'.
3. Explain the limitations of these vessels.
4. Outline the role of an oceanographer.
- High Tech Tools - oceanographic vessels and tools used to investigate hydrothermal vents, from Extreme 2000: Voyage to the Deep, University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies
- Mission and Crew - covers the expedition and crew involved from Extreme 2000: Voyage to the Deep, University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies
- Alvin's Log: DISPATCHES FROM THE DEEP - logs from the 1997 expedition, from The New York Times on the Web
GeologistUse the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to environmentalist:
1. Explain how 'black smokers' form.
2. Explain the location of 'black smokers' in relation to plate tectonics.
3. Explain why mining companies might be interested in studying 'black smokers'.
4. Explain how a knowledge and understanding of 'black smokers' might be used to locate existing mineral deposits.
5. Outline the role of a geologist.
- Seafloor Geology - explores the geology of the seafloor including hydrothermal vents, from Extreme 2000: Voyage to the Deep, University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies
- Looking for clues to our mineral wealth - from NOVA, Australian Academy of Science, describes the concentration of minerals around 'black smokers'
- Habitats: Hydrothermal Vents - Characteristics - from Office of Naval Research, following pages cover hydrothermal vent life and humans and this unique environment
- Sample location and characterization - images, diagrams and maps showing locations from University of California Berkeley
- Seafloor 'chimney' recovered - an article on BBC NEws
- 'Lost City' found on Atlantic floor - an article from BBC News
- Huge New Hydrothermal Vent System Found on Seafloor - from National Science Foundation News
- Strange Oases in Sea Depths Offer Map to Riches - an article from New York Times relating to the mineral deposits associated with 'black smokers'
- Between a rock and a hot place:The fossil record of hydrothermal vent communities - an abstract with illustration of a seminar at Leeds University
Phase 3 - Debating, Discussing, and Reaching ConsensusYou have all learned about a different part of 'black smokers'. Now group members come back to the larger WebQuest team with expertise gained by searching from one perspective. As a group you should discuss the following issues.
1. How unique is the environment of the 'black smoker'?
2. Will the constant exploration and research be detrimental to the ecology?
3. Should the mineral wealth associated with 'black smokers' be exploited?
4. Should such a unique ecological environment be conserved?
Phase 4 - Real World FeedbackYou and your teammates have learned a lot by dividing up into different roles. Now's the time to put your learning into a presentation for real world feedback.
Together you will prepare a presentation to either support the case for:
1. environmental protection of the 'black smoker' environments; or
2. exploration and research of them for possible mining, food source and tourism.
ConclusionConstruct a list of any new words and their meanings that you have experienced during this topic.
How much do we really know about the environments of the ocean? Consider that in 1977 when 'black smokers' were first discovered, humans had already walked on the Moon (eight years earlier). Consider which of these events has provided a greater understanding of life on Earth.
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