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Nutrients in an Estuary

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Nutrients in an Estuary

In this activity, learners model estuaries, artificially enriching both fresh and salt water samples with different amounts of nutrients and observing the growth of algae over several weeks. Learners relate their results to the phenomenon of algae blooms in estuaries. Learners then analyze data for different sites at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR) in Florida to discover the relationships between nitrogen, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen. Finally, learners study how nutrients cycle through an estuary and suggest recommendations for reducing nutrient inputs to estuary waters.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 4 weeks

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Geochemical Cycles
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
      • Biosphere
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Chemistry of Life
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemistry of Life
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

Includes assesments for student learning

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, NOAA/National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS),


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