Understanding Ocean Acidification

Hands-On Activities

These hands-on activities will help you demonstrate and explore the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on the acidity of the ocean and learn about impacts an acidic ocean has on marine organisms, the ocean food web, and humans. You will also investigate the causes for increased ocean acidity and learn about ways to minimize your impact.

Marine Osteoporosis

Two 45-minute lessons for teachers

These two lessons are designed for 5th through 8th graders and are correlated with National Science Education Standards. Students use the scientific method to conduct an experiment to understand the effects of increased acidity on certain marine species.

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Ocean Acidification Dry Ice Demonstration

Ocean acidification experiment

This demonstration uses cabbage juice as a pH indicator and shows how dry ice can change the acidity of seawater. Watch how dropping dry ice, which is solid CO2, into water makes the water more acidic in front of your eyes as the cabbage juice changes color from blue to red.

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Your Breath Acidifies Water

Ocean acifidication experiment

This is a great way to visually show the change in acidity of water as CO2 is dissolved in it. Using bromothymol blue as an indicator of the PH of water, simply use straws to blow into the water in a glass flask with a small opening. As you blow, the water turns from blue to green to yellow as the CO2 from your breath dissolves in the water and makes it more acidic.

Whale Jenga

Food web game

Using the popular wood block game Jenga, explore the relationship between predators and prey in an ocean food web and how it's affected by ocean acidification. This game makes the interconnection of the food web very concrete. As the bottom of the food web is impacted, the whole web becomes more fragile and eventually collapses.

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Krill and Fish Pictures

Phytoplankton Pictures

Zooplankton Pictures

Whale Fact Sheets

Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Shells

Ocean acidification experiment

In this activity you will test the effects of acid on eggshells to see firsthand the effects ocean acidification can have on calcifying organisms.

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Ocean’s Recipe for Success: Ocean Acidification Demonstration

This 20 minute demonstration can be used for small groups of guests or students. The demonstration and accompanying presentation allow participants to understand the value and importance of how human activities influence the health of the ocean and how changes in the ocean ecosystem affect marine and human life. Additionally, participants will learn that we can work together as stewards of our planet’s oceans and make changes to leave the world a better place for our children.

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Ocean Acidification Toy Car Activity

This activity visually demonstrates how CO2 gas (from sources like internal combustion engines) can change seawater chemistry and make it more acidic.

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Firsthand Learning

Ocean acidification is a fairly complex concept, but the hands-on activities on this page can help simplify the concepts.

The photos below depict participants trying out these activities at a community workshop.

Ocean Acidification Dry Ice Demonstration

Your Breath Acidifies Water

Whale Jenga

Impact of Ocean Acidification on Shells