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News from the Earth Sciences

The BBC BluePlanet

Newly discovered ocean plankton named after BBC Blue Planet.

Although measuring only thousandths of a millimetre, these plankton play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems as a crucial source of food for many ocean dwelling organisms. They are also incredibly valuable for studying the impact of climate change on ocean life now and across the previous 220 million years.
The plankton – called coccolithophores – are single cells surrounded by a calcite shell that varies drastically in shape across different species, acting as armour against predators.
“Although microscopic, the plankton are so abundant that they are visible from space as swirling blooms in the surface oceans, and form our most iconic rocks with their calcite forms making up the bulk of the white chalk cliffs and downs of southern England,” explained study co-author Professor Paul Bown.
It is the ability to produce this calcite shell that is being disrupted through ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a symptom of climate change whereby rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.
By studying fossilised plankton shells or ‘coccoliths’ in samples from drilling down deep into the ocean bed, scientists can map the impact of climate change and other global events over a very long period of time and use this to inform what might happen to in the future.

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Dr. Wendy Kirk 


CIPS

Mars In The Classroom


Mars in the Classroom provides an exciting program of hands-on and thought-provoking science activities for children aged 13 to 16. 

"Mars is there, waiting to be reached."

Mars, the`red planet', shines with almost a blood red colour in the night sky

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Mars In The Classroom


  • The project is themed around the students planning their own manned mission to Mars, and comprises a series of modules to be carried out in small groups.
  • The experiments within each module of Mars in the Classroom can be used either as stand-alone projects or in combination with any or all of the other modules provided. In this way, the educator has complete control over the duration and level of the program undertaken.
  • The aim of the project is to provide a stimulating program that can compliment the National Curriculum, introducing students (and educators!) to the excitement of planetary science.