Science Treasure Hunt 2018: Part One

On the 10th March 2018 the BSA Norwich branch hosted our second Science Treasure Hunt for British Science Week 2018.

Starting at the Forum, participants solved clues around Norwich city centre to find our hidden scientists and try out some exciting hands-on activities. The first stall centred around life in our oceans. 

Ocean acidification 

This activity focused on how increased levels of atmospheric CO2 caused by human emissions are making our oceans more acidic with severe implications for aquatic animals.

Participants were asked to blow through a straw into a cup of water containing a natural pH indicator. Blowing into the water increases the CO2 concentration which in-turn increases the acidity of the water.  The indicator detects this variation and changes colour. 

This activity is a scaled-down visual representation what’s going on in our oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater (H2O) it forms carbonic acid (H2CO3). One effect of this shift in the oceans chemical make-up is that it reduces the availability of carbonate ions making it more difficult for organisms such as corals and molluscs to build their skeletons and shells.  

Participants were also able to compare shells which had been stored in a weak acid for 10 days with some that had not been, to observe the effect of acidity on calcifying organisms. The shells in acid had begun to dissolve!

It is thought that the oceans have absorbed up to half of the CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels. Scientists predict that if we do not reduce our emissions ocean acidity could increase by 150% by 2100.

Animal adaptations to life in the ocean depths

Another part of the stall investigated how various creatures adapt to life in the oceans. Visitors could colour in cut outs of weird and wonderful animals and stick them to the correct ocean zone on our ocean depth profile whilst discussing what characteristics allow them to survive in such remarkable environments. 

Did you know?
  • The common clownfish are the only animals not stung by anemones as they have a thick layer of protective mucus. Clownfish live in the Photic Zone up to 200m deep. 
  • Humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 km (16,000 miles) each year and can blow bubbles to create fishing nets. Humpback whales live in the Twilight Zone, 200-1,000m deep!
  • The dumbo octopus gets its name from ear-like fins which it flaps to propel itself along. This octopus can be found in the Abyss Zone, 4,000-6,000m deep.
BSA initiative “Run to the Deep”

The Ocean’s stall was also promoting the BSA’s exciting virtual race for British Science Week 2018, Run to the Deep.

 “Run to the Deep is an immersive running app which chronicles a journey from the sea surface to the Marianas Trench – the deepest know part of the ocean – as you run over a 10k distance. Explorer Pierre-Yves Cousteau, son of the famous conservationist Jacques Cousteau, narrates the virtual race, detailing alien creatures, amazing seascapes, and human exploration stories as you “descend” to the ocean floor.”  

The BSA will be re-opening the app to celebrate World Oceans Day on 8th June and will be also be hosting a live 10k race event in Hyde Park, London. Find out more here!  

The day would not have been a true treasure hunt without the promise of some treasure (science themed of course!). By answering a key question at each stall visitors could enter a prize draw to win some exciting prizes. 

Question 1: Which species of fish goes “fishing”?  A: An Angler Fish!

Keep an eye out for future blog posts about the other treasure hunt stalls.