Cluster 3: Blubber, Feathers, and Fur: Exploring Animals in the Ocean and on Land

In this cluster, students gain insight into key concepts of marine mammal and terrestrial animal biology and ecology through an active, hands-on approach. Students will investigate the life history, physiology, and conservation of marine mammals (seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales, and sea otters) living just off our shores. In addition, students will learn the core skills of observation and inquiry essential to every scientist through the development of a daily natural history field journaling practice. Through lecture, video, discussion, and at-home outside exploration, students will develop skills such as identification, animal tracking and habitat mapping by using field techniques used to study terrestrial mammals and birds. These skills can be applied to learning about the natural history of any place you go. Marine and terrestrial mammals and birds alike are facing increasing threats from human and climate perturbations that can compromise their very existence.

Prerequisite: Completion of Algebra 1 and Biology or equivalent.

All students in this cluster will be enrolled in the following courses:

Marine Mammal Biology

Instructor: Shawn Noren, PhD (IMS-UCSC)

Similar to humans and other terrestrial mammals, dolphins and seals must breathe air and maintain a stable core body temperature in order to survive. Yet living in the ocean creates a paradox: marine mammals must hold their breath to forage and their aquatic environment rapidly steals body heat. Over evolutionary time, marine mammals have acquired amazing physiological adaptations to endure these challenges. In this class we will explore the life history, physiology, and conservation of this fascinating group of mammals. Virtual field trips with real scientists will bring us to the Arctic, Año Nuevo, Long Marine Laboratory to participate in a necropsy of a marine mammal and watch how scientific data is collected on live dolphins, and the Marine Mammal Center (a marine mammal hospital to rehabilitate sick and injured wild marine mammals).

Natural History of Birds and Mammals

Instructor: Alex Jones, MS (UCSC Campus Natural Reserve)

We will explore the diversity of birds and mammals through a combination of lecture, small group work, discussion, video, and at-home outdoor exercises. Students will develop essential observation, identification, and field technique skills that scientists, including citizen scientists, use to study animals in the wild. Virtual field trips and at-home exercises will focus on a variety of topics including animal tracking, small mammal live trapping, habitat mapping, and birding by sight and sound. We will also pay attention to plants and their connections to mammals and birds. Through these exercises, students will develop skills that will enable them to learn about the natural history and ecology of any place they go and deepen their appreciation and respect for the natural world.