“Messages from the Canary – What’s in Store for the Ecology of the Arctic Ocean?” with Raymond Sambrotto (May 2010)

by | Jul 27, 2023 | Marine and Terrestrial Biology

Originally presented 8 May 2010

Arctic sea ice has thinned dramatically over the past decade and has resulted in greatly reduced ice cover during the summer. Sea ice appears to be playing the role of the ‘canary in the mine shaft’ in the Arctic and is sending a strong message that large scale changes are taking place there. Sea ice is one of the dominant ecological factors in the Arctic Ocean and controls for example, the regions that support elevated levels of plankton productivity as well as the distribution of fish and marine mammals.

This presentation will review the ecological nature of the Arctic Ocean and how sea ice structures many of the important factors that are important to the biological communities there. The major questions now pertain to the response of these systems to the rapid change in sea ice in recent years. Some parts, such as the plankton, are expected to respond relatively quickly, although unevenly across the Arctic. Other aspects of the biota of the Arctic Ocean, such as the fish and marine mammals, likely have much longer response times. Aspects of both of these and additional questions will be addressed.

Introduction to this Workshop

Today’s slide show

Cutting-Edge Research

Bering Ecosystem Project
PI: R. Sambrotto

The cold, frozen seas at the north and south extremes of our planet may seem like an inhospitable place for life, but in fact are home to an abundance of marine organisms.  These polar marine ecosystems are also on the front lines of climate change because we suspect that any change in surface conditions will be most dramatic at the poles. Ray Sambrotto, a Doherty Research Scientist at Lamont-Doherty is part of the Bering Ecosystem Project.  This National Science Foundation sponsored project seeks to understand how the rapidly retreating icein the northern Bering and Arctic Oceans will impact the abundant fish, birds and marine mammals in this productive region.  Several research cruises are planned over the next few years using icebreakers to sample across the ice.

Classroom Resources


“Is Greenland Melting?” (Earth Exploration Toolbook)

“Whither Arctic Sea Ice?” (Earth Exploration Toolbook)

PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating in the Arctic and Antarctic)


Polar Discovery Arctic Ocean Ecosystem

Canada’s Polar Environments

Canada’s Arctic Marine Waters

Environmental Issues in the Polar Regions

To the Ends of the Earth: Research in Polar Seas

International Polar Foundation–Educapoles

CRESIS (Center for REmote Sensing of Ice Sheets) K-12 Education

Other Resources for This Topic

The Bering Sea Ecosystem Study

“The Bering Sea Ecosystem”s

Changing Sea-ice and the Bering Sea Ecosystem

“Frontiers in Polar Biology in the Genomic Era”

Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research

Exploring the Cryosphere Using Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center

Final Report US National Committee for International Polar Year 2007-2008

The Arctic Ecosystem

Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)

The Unaami Arctic Data Sets

US Global Change Impacts Report: Alaska

Integrating Educational Technologies

General suggestions: Integrating Educational Technologies into Your Classrooms

Your assignment:

1) What characteristics make “web clips,” “YouTube,” and other short videos effective as a classroom teaching tool?

2) When should video clips be used for full-class instruction, and when should they be used for small groups or individual projects?

3) Describe strategies to locate suitable web clips and other short videos for your classes.


4) Design a lesson plan that incorporates at least one video clip .

E2C Follow-up:

You may send your model lesson and other responses to this “assignment” to michael@earth2class.org. If suitable, we will post your work in the E2C lesson plans and/or add them to this section of the Workshop website.