'Black Smokers' WebQuest
An Internet WebQuest on Hydrothermal Vents

created by UniServe Science

Introduction | The Task | The Process and Resources | Conclusion | HyperText Dictionary



Introduction

Unknown 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 Task

How 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 Resources

In 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 Everyone

Use 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.

Phase 2 - Looking Deeper from Different Perspectives

INSTRUCTIONS:

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..

Geochemist

Use 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.

Biologist

Use 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.

Oceanographer

Use 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

Geologist

Use 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.

Phase 3 - Debating, Discussing, and Reaching Consensus

You 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 Feedback

You 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.




Conclusion

Construct 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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