The Whale Pump

A Lesson from the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan

About this Lesson

During the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, Dr. Lisa Gilbert led shipboard science projects, gathering information on the weather, water, birds, mammals and even trash encountered along the way. Dr. Gilbert and her assistants, the 38th Voyagers used modern instruments like GPS to determine location and a microscope to analyze plankton.  They recorded observations in a log much like the ones used by generations of seafarers before them.

Inspired by the 38th Voyage, graduate student Alexandra McInturf and Dr. Gilbert created a new science unit for middle school teachers.  The six lessons in the unit merge history with science to encourage an enduring interdisciplinary connection between modern marine science and the experience of the nineteenth-century whaler. 

This lesson, "The Whale Pump" is the fifth of six lessons in the unit "Science on the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan," funded in part by Williams College.

Learning Objectives for this Lesson:

-Students are able to visualize and reconstruct the driving processes behind the nitrogen cycle in the ocean

-Students understand how physical or biological changes to the ecosystem can affect the nitrogen cycle

-Students are able to use empirical data to predict and explain seasonal variation in marine mammal populations in the Gulf of Maine

-Students demonstrate an understanding of the connection between photosynthesis, primary consumers, and secondary consumers

Next Generation Science Standards:

1.- MS-LS2-1.Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem

2. - MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations


Created By
Alexandra McInturf, Lisa Gilbert
Grade Level
3-5, 6-8
General Interest, Science

Links to Lesson PDFs

The Lesson

The Whale Pump : A Lesson from the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan

Supplements to the Lesson