Scientific Research: Observing the Behavior of Oyster Larvae


Lesson Plan Standards

1.2.7 1.4.1 1.4.2 1.4.6 1.5.1 1.5.2 1.5.5


Scientists at major oceanographic research laboratories -- particularly the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences -- are currently engaged in a wide variety of experiments to understand the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) and the implications of various actions aimed at restoring its population. Using video clips of larvae in motion from laboratory research at Horn Point Laboratory, students will identify distinctive patterns of behavior and calculate swimming speeds under varying ecological conditions of temperature and salinity. This is the unit's core lesson. If your students already have an understanding of the Bay's oyster population and its larval stages, you could begin here. (Lesson time: 45 to 60 minutes)


1. Make qualitative observations of the "swimming behavior" of oyster larvae using authentic laboratory research data.
2. Emphasize the complexity of behavior in microscopic zooplankton.
3. Improve observational skills with repeated trials and interpretive materials (i.e.,"Behavioral Checklist.")
4. Communicate observations in written and diagramatic form.
5. Identify patterns in data and summarize observations.

Lesson Materials

Video Clip A

One computer per every two students

Student Lab Handout: "Observing the Behavior of Oyster Larvae"

Student Lab Handout: "Behavioral Checklist"


Teacher Notes


  1. Coordinate with your computer specialist in advance to make sure all computers have access to the video clips.
  2. Distribute the lab handout, "Observing The Behavior of Oyster Larvae." (Download from Lesson Materials.)
  3. Students should work in pairs, but each must have a handout. Review with students the sequence of steps in the handout. See "Teacher Notes" for important details about the procedure. (Download from Lesson Materials.)
  4. Students will follow the procedure on their lab handout. (Lesson time: 45-60 minutes)


STUDENT HANDOUTS: The student handouts (available in the Lesson Materials section) are the property of Ben Schulman but may be modified or adapted as necessary for classroom use by the instructor.

VIDEO DATA CLIP: The oyster larvae video clip are the exclusive property of the University of Maryland and Horn Point Laboratory and may only be used in the manner outlined in this educational lesson plan. The video clip may NOT be copied, transferred, or used in any other manner without written permission from the University of Maryland and Horn Point Laboratory.

Maryland State Standards

The student will use relationships discovered in the lab to explain phenomena observed outside the laboratory.
The student will organize data appropriately using techniques such as tables, graphs, and webs (for graphs: axes labeled with appropriate quantities, appropriate units on axes, axes labeled with appropriate intervals, independent and dependent variables on correct axes, appropriate title).
The student will analyze data to make predictions or decisions or to draw conclusions.
The student will describe trends revealed by data.
The student will demonstrate the ability to summarize data (measurements/observations).
The student will explain scientific concepts and processes through drawing, writing, and/or oral communication.
The student will create and/or interpret graphics (scale drawings, photographs, digital images, field of view, etc.).

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