To demonstrate the effect that an oil spill will have on marine life.
Many environmentalist and volunteer groups go out to sea after an oil spill to help clean up. Why? What effects does an oil spill have on marine life?
- Large glass or plastic jar (a large, washed out pickle jar will work well)
- 1 gallon distilled water
- Blue food coloring
- Cooking oil
- Logbook or notebook
- Rubber duck
- Rubber whale, fish or other marine life bath toy
Estimated Experiment Time
A few hours.
- 1. Wash the jar and dry thoroughly. Fill the jar ½ full with distilled water and add food coloring, stirring to disperse the color. This will simulate your ocean.
- 2. Place the bath toys in the water so they float.
- 3. Pour the cooking oil into the jar, avoiding pouring directly on the bath toys. If your jar is not big enough, you can use the rubber duck or only one bath toy if you’d like.
- 4. Record your observations at this point.
- 5. Gently swirl the water around in the jar to simulate waves. Record your observations.
A great way to record your observations is through pictures – if you have a digital camera or a traditional camera, ask an adult to help you take photographs of each step of your experiment.
What happens during step four, after you add the oil to the water to simulate an oil spill? What happens at step five, when the water is swirled around to simulate waves?
During step four, the oil added will float on top of the water in your jar, the same way oil spilled in the ocean floats on top of the ocean water. It will coat the bottom of the rubber duck. During step five, when you simulate waves, the water and the layer of oil on top of it will splash the rubber duck and coat it with oil. How do the results of this experiment apply to oil spills in real life? Do you think ocean life is affected by an oil spill? What do you think happens to animals that come to the surface to breathe, such as whales and dolphins? Do they get coated with oil as they surface? How can marine life benefit from the volunteer groups that help clean up the oil spills?
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