Tag Archives: coral reef habitat

How the Great Barrier Reef Supports Biodiversity and Healthy Oceans

The Great Barrier Reef


Our planet is a delicate web of interconnected ecosystems, and few places exemplify this intricate balance better than the Great Barrier Reef. Nestled in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder, a kaleidoscopic underwater world that supports an astonishing array of marine life. However, this magnificent ecosystem is facing unprecedented threats, and the need for its preservation has never been more critical. So, how Does the Great Barrier Reef Support Biodiversity and Healthy Oceans?

The Importance of the Great Barrier Reef:

  1. Biodiversity Hotspot: coral ocean

    • The Great Barrier Reef is a biodiversity hotspot, home to a staggering diversity of marine species, including coral, fish, mollusks, and countless other organisms.
    • It shelters around 400 species of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and various endangered species such as the dugong, green sea turtle and some shark species.
  2. Economic Value:

    • Beyond its ecological significance, the reef is a crucial economic asset. It supports tourism and fisheries, providing livelihoods for local communities and contributing billions to the Australian economy.
  3. Global Significance:

    • As the world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef plays a vital role in the health of the global oceans. Its preservation is not just an Australian concern but a global responsibility.

Threats to the Great Barrier Reef:

  1. Climate Change: Coral reef

    • Rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification due to climate change pose a severe threat to the reef. Coral bleaching, a phenomenon where corals expel the algae living in their tissues, is becoming more frequent and widespread.
  2. Pollution:

    • Runoff from agriculture, industrial activities, and improper waste disposal contribute to pollution in the reef’s waters. This pollution can lead to nutrient imbalances, harming the delicate symbiotic relationships within the ecosystem.
  3. Overfishing:

    • Overfishing depletes fish populations, disrupting the delicate balance of the reef ecosystem. It also threatens the livelihoods of those dependent on fishing and undermines the reef’s ability to recover from other stressors.

Preserving the Great Barrier Reef:

  1. Climate Action:

    • Mitigating climate change is essential for the reef’s survival. Countries worldwide must commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases and subsequent coral bleaching events.
  2. Sustainable Practices: healthy ocean

    • Adopting sustainable fishing practices and reducing pollution from land-based activities are crucial steps. Implementing and enforcing regulations to minimize runoff and control fishing practices can help protect the reef’s delicate balance.
  3. Conservation and Research:

    • Investing in conservation efforts and scientific research is paramount. This includes coral restoration projects, monitoring programs, and initiatives to enhance the reef’s resilience to environmental changes.
  4. Education and Awareness:

    • Raising awareness about the importance of the Great Barrier Reef and the threats it faces is vital. Education fosters a sense of responsibility among individuals, encouraging sustainable choices and support for conservation efforts. Nurturing Ocean Stewards.


The Great Barrier Reef stands as a testament to the beauty and diversity of our planet’s oceans. Its preservation is not just a matter of national pride for Australia; it’s a global imperative. By addressing climate change, adopting sustainable practices, and investing in conservation, we can become guardians of the ocean, ensuring that the Great Barrier Reef continues to thrive for generations to come. The health of our oceans, and indeed the health of our planet, depends on the actions we take today to preserve this natural wonder.

Find out more about Human Impact with our free resources and our live marine animal programs.

Why the Ocean is a Great Theme for High Schools


High school education should be engaging, inspiring, and relevant. What better way to achieve these goals than by incorporating the fascinating world of the ocean into the curriculum? Take students on a journey beneath the waves, exploring the depths of marine biology, environmental science, and more. In this blog, we’ll explore why the ocean is a great theme for high schools, and we’ll dive deep into some captivating ocean-themed lesson ideas.

The ocean covers more than 70% of our planet, making it a critical part of our global ecosystem. Teaching about the ocean connects students to real-world issues like climate change, biodiversity, and conservation. Using the ocean as a theme we bring real-world relevance to learning. This is particulary possible where we are based in South East Queensland, as we can dive deep into local case studies such as the Great Barrier Reef and the annual humpback whale migration.

Why Teach with an Ocean Theme?

There are a number of reasons why teaching with an ocean theme benefits students’ learning. These include…

Marine Biology Careers

Inspiring STEM Education: It offers hands-on opportunities for scientific inquiry and exploration, sparking students’ interest in further study and STEM careers.

Environmental Stewardship: By studying the ocean and its challenges, students develop a sense of environmental responsibility. They learn about the importance of protecting our oceans and become more conscious of their ecological footprint. Nurturing Ocean Stewards.

Cross-subject Learning: Ocean-themed lessons naturally integrate various subjects, such as science and geography. This interdisciplinary approach enriches students’ understanding and helps them see the connections between different fields of study.

 Ocean Themed Lesson Ideas

Below are some great lesson ideas which may be supported by Ocean Life Education incursions or excursions.

Classification – Exploring the Diversity of Life

Uncover the vast range of marine species that inhabit the ocean and their unique characteristics. StudentsClassifying Humpback Whales learn about why and how we classify and order species, enhancing understanding of the diversity of the underwater world and discovering similarities with our own, all while gaining hands-on experience with our captivating live animal team – turtles, an epaulette shark, sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers.

Follow up: Students can explore marine biodiversity and dive into the incredible diversity of life in the ocean. From microscopic plankton to magnificent whales, students can research and present on different marine species.


Unravelling Energy Flows: Food Chains, Food Webs, and Ecosystems

Students explore food chains and food webs, delving deep into the fascinating relationships of who consumes whom within an ecosystem and how energy flows. Within each ecosystem, every organism occupies a distinct trophic level or position in the food chain or web. We explore the trophic pyramid, spanning from producers to primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers, and even apex predators, all the way down to the vital decomposers. This lesson also touches on the concept of the interdependence of species.

Follow up: Students can choose a marine species of their choice and create a detailed food web infographic.

Human Impact on the Ocean – Ocean Pollution & Conservation fast fashion ocean dump

Examine the profound influence of human activities on our oceans, including plastic pollution, overfishing, and oil spills. Understand how our actions have reshaped these vital ecosystems and learn about the strategies and solutions needed to protect our marine environment for future generations. As our society has expanded and evolved, the repercussions of our actions have rippled through ecosystems, biodiversity, climate patterns, and more.

Follow up: Discuss local conservation efforts and solutions and encourage students to brainstorm ways they can contribute to ocean protection.

Read our blog: Nurturing Ocean Stewards.

Investigate Adaptation – Exploring the Extraordinary Evolution of Marine Life

We journey into the world of marine organisms and their remarkable ability to evolve and adapt to their ever-changing environment, ensuring their survival. We highlight specific adaptations like camouflage and students learn about the incredible survival strategies that have allowed creatures to thrive in some of the ocean’s most challenging habitats.

Follow up: Students apply their learning to an ocean animal of choice and examine how it has adapted to its environment.


Hands-On Learning and Field Trips

To truly immerse students in ocean-themed curriculum topics, consider incorporating hands-on learning experiences and field trips: Ocean themed field trips

Ocean Life Incursion: Our programs are tailored to the curriculum and offer an up-close look at marine life and ecosystems in an interactive manner.

Ocean life Education Excursions: Where proximity permits, we take students to the coastline to examine topics such as biodiversity and ecosystems, adaptation and human impact.

Beach Cleanups: Organize school beach cleanup events to teach students about the impact of plastic pollution on coastal environments and wildlife.

Guest Speakers: Invite marine scientists, conservationists, or local experts to speak to your class about their work and research in the field of marine science.

Link to blog: How to get Involved in a SE Queensland Beach Clean


Bring Local Real-World Relevance to Learning Humback Whale Teaching Resources

In Queensland, Australia, The Great Barrier is an excellent example to use as a basis for studying key curriculum themes, connecting students to real-world issues like climate change, biodiversity and ecosystems, and conservation. In addition, we are incredibly lucky to have over twenty thousand humpback whales migrate along our coast each year. This incredible spectacle can be used to inspire kids and for case studies covering a wide range of curriculum themes.

Teaching curriculum topics with an ocean theme not only engages high school students but also empowers them to become informed and environmentally conscious global citizens. Through interdisciplinary lessons, hands-on experiences, and a focus on local real-world issues, educators can inspire the next generation of scientists, conservationists, and ocean enthusiasts. So, take the plunge and let the ocean be your classroom—it’s a journey worth exploring!


Other Useful links

Ocean Life Education Programs & EventsOcean High School Programs




Local Conservation Groups

Or Brisbane

Other organisers…

Nurturing Ocean Stewards: Teaching Children About Human Impact on the Ocean


As educators, we hold a substantial responsibility to shape young minds and cultivate a sense of stewardship towards our planet. One of the most critical lessons we can impart is the understanding of human impact on the ocean. The ocean, covering more than 70% of our planet, is vital to our survival and well-being. By teaching children about the ways in which human activities affect the ocean, we empower them to become informed and responsible global citizens who actively contribute to ocean conservation efforts.

We love educating children (and adults) about the ocean and feel a duty to ensure that an environmental message is at the core of what we do. Click the link to watch our Human Impact video for schools and read on for useful ideas and resources to assist you as educators to plan your teaching about Human Impact on the Ocean….

Human Impact Curriculum Themed Incursions for Primary & High Schools

Human Impact Video

1. Exploring Ocean Ecosystems. Start by introducing your students to the wonders of ocean ecosystems. Dive into the diverse marine life, from coral reefs to kelp forests, and discuss the intricate relationships between species. Encourage them to think about the ocean as a complex web of life, where each organism plays a crucial role. Check out our free Habitats Resources and Programs for facts and activities. Our Humpback Whale Teaching Resources will help bring food webs to life ($30).


2. Our Connection – Human Activities and Ocean Impact.  Plastic Diary activityHelp children understand the connection between their daily actions and the health of the ocean. Discuss activities such as plastic consumption, waste disposal, and carbon emissions. Engage them in thought-provoking discussions about how seemingly small choices can have significant consequences for marine ecosystems. Get children involved with our Plastic Diary and other free activities.


3. Plastic Predicament: The Impact of Plastic Pollution. Dive deep into the issue of plastic pollution and its devastating effects on marine life. Share heartwarming success stories of communities coming together to clean up beaches and reduce plastic waste. Organize a beach cleanup or a plastic-free challenge to inspire hands-on action. Check out our blog to find out how to go about organising a beach clean on the Sunshine Coast.


4. Coral Compassion: Coral Reefs and Climate Change.  Beach Clean Sunshine CoastExplore the vibrant world of coral reefs and their vulnerability to climate change. Discuss coral bleaching and its connection to rising ocean temperatures. Encourage students to brainstorm ways to reduce their carbon footprint and advocate for sustainable practices. Download our free Habitats PDF fact sheet which include Coral Reef Habitat.


5. Guardians of the Sea: Empowering Future Ocean Stewards. Foster a sense of responsibility and empowerment in your students, many of whom live on the Queensland Coast and experience the ocean in their daily lives. Encourage them to be vocal advocates for ocean conservation by writing letters to local officials, creating awareness campaigns, or participating in community projects and beach cleans. Highlight inspiring stories of young activists who have made a difference, such as Gretta Thunberg. They may be interested in joining a volunteer conservation organisation like:


6. Creative Expression: Art and Literature for Ocean Awareness. Read stories about turtle hatchlings to younger years, such as lluka the Hybrid Hatchling and Trevy’s Tricky Day. Encourage children to create marine-themed artwork, write stories about ocean adventures, or poems about the ocean and how fragile it is.


Teaching children about the human impact on the ocean is a vital step towards securing a sustainable future for our planet. By instilling a deep appreciation for the ocean and nurturing a sense of responsibility, we equip our students with the tools they need to become compassionate stewards of the sea. Together, as educators and young minds, we can make a lasting difference and ensure that the ocean thrives for generations to come.


Ocean Life EducationWhy not book in one of our inspirational Ocean Life Education Programs or Events?

Discover our free Resources


Ocean Habitats

Oceans support an immense diversity of life and ecosystems. From the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean to the freezing polar regions (and from tiny zooplankton to blue whales!), a staggering range of animals, plants and other life forms call the ocean their home. These ocean habitats (or marine habitats) provide everything needed for survival – food, shelter, water and oxygen. They need to be healthy in order to support the diversity of life within them and contribute to a healthy ocean, which provides us with many things including food, oxygen, jobs and a whole heap of fun water-based activities.


Watch our Habitats video

Types of Ocean Habitat

Marine habitats are divided into two main zonescoastal habitat and open ocean habitat. Within these habitats, there are numerous sub-habitats.

Coastal Habitats

Coastal HabitatsThe coastal habitat is the region from the shoreline out to the continental shelf. Most marine creatures live in coastal habitat, although it only makes up seven percent of the ocean.

Coastal habitats include intertidal zones (constantly exposed and covered by the ocean’s tides). These include:

Rocky shore, mangrove, mudflats, estuaries, kelp forest, sea grass, sandy shores/beach and coral reefs – see below for more about these.


Open Ocean Habitats

Open Ocean HabitatsOpen ocean habitats are found beyond the continental shelf. This is the deep ocean. Open ocean habitats are divided into layers which include: surface waters, the deep sea, and the ocean floor.

It is estimated that about 10 percent of marine species live in the open ocean. They tend to be the largest and fastest, such as whales and sharks, or fish that swim in schools. Tiny marine life such as plankton also inhabit this zone, which is often referred to as the pelagic zone – this simply means open ocean in Greek.

Food chains can be found in the open ocean: small bait fish eat plankton, bigger fish eat the bait fish, and sharks and some whales eat the bigger fish. Some whale species eat tiny plankton. In fact, the largest creature on earth, the blue whale, eats tiny plankton.

Some animals are able to travel to great depths but also spend much of their time close to the surface. The sperm whale can dive kilometers deep into the ocean, yet spends most of its time near the surface. Water temperatures vary greatly in this zone with the water being warmed by the sun near the surface and very cold deep down.


Coral Reef Habitat

Coral reef habitat consists of many single-living organisms (polyps) living together as one large mass. It comes in many different shapes and forms. Coral reefs are responsible for a huge proportion of the earth’s biodiversity with an estimated 25 percent of all marine species living in and around them.

Corals live with algae in a type of relationship called symbiosis. This is where two different species of organism interact or cooperate with each other. The algae, called zooxanthellae, live inside corals where they are protected by the coral’s tough outer shell. In return, the algae provide food for their host that they produce by the process of photosynthesis. Zooxanthellae is also responsible for the striking colours we often see in corals. Without these algae, corals become transparent, exposing their white skeleton. This is known as coral bleaching.

Coral reefs provide protection and are home to millions of marine creatures (as well as algae). They also act as nurseries for juvenile creatures and act as a barrier protecting land foreshores (the coastline), seagrass and other marine vegetation. So, in effect, they protect our home (habitat) too!

Coral is an essential part of the food chain and ecosystems, without it marine animals would perish – from sharks right down to the smallest algae.

Human Impact on Coral Reef Habitat

In order to thrive and support a healthy ecosystem, coral reef requires a moderate ocean temperature and clean water. Climate change is resulting in ocean temperatures rising and in many regions, the ocean is polluted. This is worrying scientists and citizens around the world. We can all play a part in helping to protect our oceans by doing simple things such as disposing of plastics carefully. Click here to find out how else you can help the ocean.


Mangrove Habitat

Mangroves are tough trees and shrubs that live in the coastal intertidal zone where they are able to survive in salty water. mangrove habitat They form extremely important habitats, providing protection for millions of marine animals as well as filtering and cleaning the water and the air, and protecting land from erosion.

Here are just a few of the benefits of mangrove habitat:

-Stabilize the coastline
-Protect water and air quality
-Reduce coastal flooding
-Provide habitat for fish
-Protect wildlife species
-Protect young fish from predators
-Serve as a nesting area for birds
-Protect species that humans rely on as a food source. It is estimated that 75% of commercial food caught has a direct link to mangroves!

Animals Commonly Found in Mangroves in Australia

Mud crabs, prawns, fiddler crabs, mangrove snails, molluscs and many species of fish, most common being the Mangrove Jack, Bream, Moses Perch, Whiting, Mullet & Flathead.

Wading birds: herons, pelicans, cormorants, curlews & egrets,


Rocky Shore Habitat

The rocky shore habitat comprises many microenvironments and ecosystems providing safe living habitat for a large diversity of rocky shore habitat animals, including:

Molluscs: Oysters, limpets, chitons, barnacles, crustaceans: crabs, prawns, lobsters, echinoderms: sea Stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, many species of fish and some dangerous animals such as the blue-ringed octopus and the cone shell!

The rocky shore also acts as a nursery, protecting juvenile animals and enabling them to grow before venturing out to deeper, less protective areas of the ocean.

The food chain system of rocky shore environments can be divided into three groups: the producers, the grazers and the scavengers/predators.

Producers include algae and plankton which both produce energy through photosynthesis. They are at the bottom of the food chain. The grazers feed on the producers and include creatures such as mussels, limpets and sea cucumbers. Sea cucumbers are also scavengers as they sweep the sea floor for food, picking up small particles of both producers and grazers as they go. Crabs, fish, turtles, and even some species of shark, eat sea cucumbers – these are all examples of predators.


Sandy Beach Habitat

There are two main types of sand:

Mineral sand – weathered mineral rock)

Carbonate sand – weathered down rocks containing calcium from parts of sandy beach animals (eg. sea stars, coral fragments, bones of dolphins, whales & dugongs, sea urchins, crustacean & mollusc shells, fish & shark teeth).

Sandy Beach is an important food zone linking the ocean to the land. Many small creatures live in this habitat, including worms and millions of microorganisms. Sandy Beach is also an important habitat for turtles to nest in and home to mammals such as rats and reptiles like snakes and lizards.

This zone provides a buffer zone, protecting land vegetation from ocean movement, wind and rain. Gentle tides may deposit sand onto beaches, while strong water movement, such as a storm, may erode sand from beaches. This means that beaches are changing all the time.


Seagrass Habitat

Seagrass is mainly found growing from mud or rock in bays, estuaries and coastal waters, and reaches a depth of up to 60 metres. it is the only flowering plant in the world that can live underwater. People often confuse sea grass with seaweed but seagrasses have roots, stems and leaves and produce flowers, fruits and seeds – seaweed does not!

Seagrass is an important food source for large animals like turtles and dugongs as well as smaller creatures such as sea urchins and fish. It traps food to feed on and algae grow on its surface, providing food for water birds, molluscs and other dwellers. So, seagrass is an important energy pathway, supporting the food web in many ways.

Seagrass also acts as protection for juvenile animals that seek shelter in it.

Seagrass Habitat

Copyright: Wildlife Conservation Society

Queensland’s Marine Habitats

Habitats ReefQueensland’s stunning coastline comprises a wide range of marine habitats. These include sandy and rocky shores, mangroves, and coral reefs; with the largest reef of all, The Great Barrier Reef, located just off Queensland’s coast.

For more information on Queensland’s marine habitats, check out Ocean Life Education’s NEW Habitats video presented by our owner and Senior Marine Biologist, Richard Coward. Habitats video

To book a Habitats-themed incursion at your school of centre, go to our website:


Primary programs & resources


Further Reading

Coral Bleaching