This video and article describe how increases in purple sea urchin populations are threatening important kelp forest habitat on the Oregon coast but that we can help bring the ecosystem back into balance.
An imbalance in the ecosystem due to a decline in sea urchin predators is resulting in a population explosion, decimating their prey, seaweed, in kelp forests.
Chefs and cooks in Oregon can play a part in rebalancing the kelp forest ecosystem by utilizing purple sea urchin in their recipes.
This video shows a creative, non-scientific solution to an ecological problem by highlighting chefs who are combating an invasive species through their cuisine.
Many students may connect to the notion that individuals can have an impact on local ecosystems simply by what they choose to eat, purchase, or where they choose to recreate.
Learners should be familiar with invasive species and the cascading impacts they can have on ecosystems.
The video and article are complimentary to each other and reinforce the same concepts of ecosystem imbalance and solutions to ecological issues.
Before watching the video and reading the article, ask students if they think that chefs can help combat climate change and improve ecosystems.
Have students research other creative solutions to reduce invasive species populations, such as fishing competitions for lionfish and cooking competitions utilizing invasive carp.
Encourage students to research sustainable seafood sourcing and encourage them to order sustainably caught seafood or uni next time they dine out.
Have students dig deeper on the reasons behind the decline of sea otters and sunflower sea stars in the Pacific Northwest and share their findings with the class.
This article and video touch on many ecological topics such as population dynamics, predator-prey interactions, trophic cascades, invasive species, human activity, and habitat loss.
This video resource from Oregon Public Broadcasting focuses on the huge growth in the purple sea urchin populations on the Pacific coast and the harm these creatures cause to kelp forests. The video does a good job of explaining how hunting sea otters for their fur a century ago and climate change has largely removed the urchins’ natural predators, leading to a population boom. One partial solution to the overpopulation of purple sea urchin is presented, to eat them! This resource shows how chefs around Oregon are using uni in new and exciting dishes, rather than just serving it at the sushi bar. Interviews with researchers and chefs are featured, along with stunning views of the Oregon coast and delicious looking seafood. The video rightly closes with the fact that eating uni is only one part of a what must be a multifaceted plan to reduce purple sea urchin populations. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
HS-LS2-6 Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.