Interactive Models

Global Phytoplankton Distribution Story Map


Using various visualizations (i.e., images, charts, and graphs), students will explore global phytoplankton distribution using chlorophyll concentration data. Students will investigate the processes that allow phytoplankton populations to thrive, as well as how their role in the carbon cycle impacts the other spheres of the Earth System. This story map is intended to be used with students who have access to a computing device in a 1:1 or 1:2 setting.

Phytoplankton Story Map Introduction Page

Materials Required

Resources Needed Per Student:


  1. Using an internet accessible device, students open the link to the Global Phytoplankton Distribution Story Map to begin their exploration of this phenomenon.
  2. Distribute the Global Phytoplankton Distribution Story Map Student Sheet. Have students navigate on their own through the Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate tabs of the story map to answer the questions and complete the activities on their student sheet.

Phytoplankton Story Map Introduction PageClick Here

Teacher Note

At the bottom of the ocean's food chain, phytoplankton account for roughly half of the net photosynthesis on Earth. Their photosynthesis consumes carbon dioxide and plays a key role in transferring carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean. Unlike the plant ecosystems on land, the amount of phytoplankton in the ocean is always followed closely by the abundance of organisms that eat phytoplankton, creating a perpetual dance between predators and prey. 

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Teachers who are interested in receiving the answer key, please complete the Teacher Key Request and Verification Form. We verify that requestors are teachers prior to sending access to the answer keys as we’ve had many students try to pass as teachers to gain access.

  • Students will analyze and compare multiple variables of the Earth System as they analyze the global distribution of phytoplankton. 
  • Students will observe annual patterns in chlorophyll concentration and shortwave radiation. 
  • Students will construct explanations and conclusions using evidence. 
  1. What conditions within the Earth System allow phytoplankton to thrive?
  2. How do changes in shortwave radiation affect the distribution of phytoplankton?
  3. What affect do sea surface temperature and ocean currents have on distribution of phytoplankton?
  4. How does chlorophyll concentration indicate the presence of phytoplankton?
  5. How do phytoplankton contribute to the carbon cycle?

National Geography Standards:

  • How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.
  • Internet Required
  • One-to-a-Group

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