Overview of this section

 Students will work in a laboratory setting performing hands-on research monitoring the heartbeat of crabs to look for pollution effects. Prior to the laboratory work, preliminary activities include training by Dr. Depledge, development of curriculum materials and establishing partnership with marine institutions.  Students will gather information, share data with other students and dialogue with scientists through a special  project web site.

There are two main procedural components to the GlobalHeartbeat program, the scientific component and the educational component. This proposal aims to develop a set of combined procedures that enable the science to be applied in the classrooms of undergraduate programs and then, with support from the university to high school students. The specific application of these combined procedures will be initially in the USC curriculum. Once developed and tested with undergraduate students in marine biology, the procedures will be pilot tested with Los Angeles Unified School District high school students participating in the Urban Ocean program and two other sites, one in Boston with Harvard and one in South Carolina with the South Carolina Aquarium. These initiatives will provide the foundation for further development of the program for implementation throughout the NOAA Sea Grant Educational Network.

The Scientific Component: CAPMON--Biomarker Technique as the Foundation for the GlobalHeartbeat Project

This GlobalHeartbeat project will use the CAPMON (computer-aided physiological monitoring) techniques established by Dr. Michael Depledge from the University of Plymouth UK. This will be the scientific research foundation for the project. The CAPMON technique is an ecotoxicological method that assesses the health of crabs through monitoring of the crabs' heartbeats. The health of the crab is in indicator or biomarker of environmental pollution and can serve as an early warning system for threats to water quality.  The physiology of crabs is well enough understood to serve as a reliable indicator of ecosystem stress.  When crabs heartbeats are elevated, this indicates moderate stress, and when the heartbeat is very slow, this indicates chronic stress.

How CAPMON Works

The CAPMON technique use infrared emitters/detectors that can be glued to the crab's shell. As the heart of the animal beat, the amount of the infrared light reflected back to the  sensor varies, thus permitting the heart rate to be monitored. The sensors relay the information to a PC, which is equipped with special software that displays the heartbeat activity. The crab is attached via very  flexible wires and this does not inhibit its motion and does not adversely affect the animal. Some digital photos of Dr. Depledge working in the lab with the CAPMON technique can be seen at  http://www.coexploration.org/ramp/html/lab-page4.html

Advantages of the CAPMON Procedure

CAPMON is a reliable, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive procedure compared to more traditional procedures that are more costly in terms of personnel and more advanced equipment, is non-invasive and limits the stress on the crabs.  CAPMON studies provide indications about the most severely impacted environmental areas in a reasonably efficient and effective manner.  This is why it seems especially well suited for transference into the education community. However the GlobalHeartbeat team is aware that the costs are still high for general implementation in educational settings and therefore has included in this budget, exploratory study for effective alternative cheaper ecotoxicological techniques or for additional funding sources.

An important advantage of CAPMON as opposed to traditional sampling is its non-destructive nature. (Depledge and Fossi, 1994). Repeated testing on the same individual crab is supported and contributes to higher reliability.

Bamber and Depledge (1997) state that "the advantage of this approach lies in the fact that the animals used for such studies are normally continuously exposed to the water flow and so provide a  constant monitor of biologically significant contamination events."  Numerous studies have indicated that when crabs have been exposed to various contaminants, changes in heart rates are noted (e.g. Aargard and Depledge, 1993; Depledge and Lundebye, 1996) In Bamber and Depledge's 1997 study crabs were taken from four sites that had varying levels of contamination. When they were tested physiologically, there was a correlation between the contamination levels at the sites and the crab's adaptive physiology. "Measurement of selected physiological capabilities of Carcinus maenas is sufficiently sensitive to exposure to contaminants."

As Depledge, Galloway, Lowe and Sanger describe in their manual on Rapid Assessment of Marine Pollution Biological Techniques, "traditionally biological effects of pollutants have been  monitored using acute lethal toxicity tests, e.g. LC50. Such tests provide information on the concentration of a particular chemical, which will kill a certain proportion of the population. Regulatory bodies aim to ensure that environmental levels do not exceed concentrations that cause mortality.  The usefulness of this approach in environmental monitoring is dubious, as death represents a gross biological end-point that only becomes apparent when biological damage has already occurred (Curtis, 1998). Thus attention has focused on detection of sub-lethal biological responses to provide early warning of organism/environmental disturbance."

A 1998 study of mussels compared Rapid Assessment techniques/CAPMON procedures to traditional methods of the Mussel Watch program. Results showed biomarker responses from the CAPMON procedures showed much stronger correlation of mussel health and pollutants than the traditional methods.

The Educational Component:

GlobalHeartbeat brings together university students and high school students, with scientists and science educators in an exciting program using sound scientific procedures in combination with new Internet technologies to investigate the connections between ocean and human health. The educational program includes a unique combination of hands-on experiments with online Web experiences. It utilizes the CAPMON procedures as the basis for the scientific experimentation. Students will monitor crabs' heartbeats and will learn how to analyze heartbeat readings. Stressed heartbeats serve as indicators of pollution. The primary research will be combined with secondary research on water quality.  Students will share data results with other students in a web-based database. Students will interact with scientists and eventually students in other geographic areas as part of the expanded network. A web site, curriculum guide and background materials will be developed. It will also bring together formal and informal educators, scientists and students in an online network for dialogue and data exchange.

At the high school level, the materials and activities will be guided by the National Science Education Standards.  The strength of GlobalHeartbeat will be its emphasis on inquiry-based learning through authentic learning tasks.  It offers an opportunity for cross-discipline study in the sciences, health, technology and social studies. Issues such as connections of human and ocean health, biodiversity, water toxins, and coastal ecosystems can be addressed at both local and global levels. Scientist and student partnerships encourage students to experience real scientific inquiry in their learning. Web communication encourages development of technology, publishing and journalism skills.

Year 1

In the first year, planning, training, curriculum development and course delivery at the university level will occur. In this year the Web site and database will be set up and an online forum will be available for scientist and student interactions.  The following activities will take place:

Partnership Development Activities

A meeting of Year 1 partner organizations will be  held at the beginning of the program to discuss the goals, activities and schedule for the program. This meeting will take place in CA and will be attended by Dr. Depledge, The College of Exploration team and the Sea  Grant team.

Training of Sea Grant Team

At the time of the partner meeting another agenda item will be for Dr. Lemus and other Sea Grant team members to receive training by Dr. Depledge about the CAPMON procedures and requirements.

Pre-Course Preparation: Scientific Equipment and Curriculum Materials

The scientific equipment will be put in place at the Wrigley facility and a curriculum guide for the university students will be created for use in the pilot course. The science can be made easily understandable through the training and the curriculum materials.

University Course Implementation

Dr. Judy Lemus will serve as coordinating faculty for USC. She will be trained in the CAPMON procedures and will then work with members of the GlobalHeartbeat team to adapt the procedure for application in the USC Marine Biology course. The specific course is Comparative Physiology of Animals (taught by Dr. Donal Manahan of USC).   Beginning in the spring of 2001, Drs. Lemus and Manahan will train approximately 30 undergraduate students in these methods. They will then field-test the process at the Wrigley Environmental Center in Catalina Island during their field program. These students will help the GlobalHeartbeat Team to develop CAPMON experiments and lessons that can be used at the high school level.

In preparation for performing the GlobalHeartbeat monitoring, students will learn background information about the project, read articles by Dr. Depledge, and gather preliminary data about local water quality, diversity, toxins, and organisms in their local LA coastal environment.

They will collect crabs from local waters.  Students will take crab heartbeat measurements in a controlled laboratory setting, testing for environmental contaminants such as trace metals.

They will perform  experiments demonstrating that the environment causes change. They will analyze results and explore potential effects of pollution on their own health.

Online Seminar to Support the Onsite Learning

 As the course progresses they will join an online seminar room to converse with and ask questions of Dr. Mike Depledge and also the staff scientists of the International Center for Ocean and Human Health at the Bermuda Biological Stations for Research.  The online seminar will include documentation of students' findings on the Web and entry of the data into a web-based database and creation of an online portfolio of their project  participation.

Evaluation and Planning for Year 2

At the end of the pilot course with university students, an evaluation will be made, analyses and findings will be done, and recommendations for  modifications for the next year will be offered. (Details of the evaluation process are given in the Project Evaluation section) At this time, plans will be made for Year 2.

Year 2

Year 2 activities will be the same set of activities as listed above, but the implementation will take place in high schools in partnership with marine institutions.  The marine institutions will provide the space to host the equipment as well as personnel to support the laboratory component of the program.  Curriculum materials will be adapted for high school students.

In the second year, modifications will be made to the  techniques based on findings from the university pilot phase. A teacher advisory group will be created to work with the GlobalHeartbeat team and offer suggestions for implementation on the high school level.  This group will include the teachers from the high schools that will participate in the Year 1 program, as well as other educators and staff from the partnering marine institutions.  This group will adapt the materials for high school, creating a high-school specific curriculum guide. This curriculum development will take place through an online seminar.  Either Dr. Depledge or Dr. Lemus will visit each of the three sites in order to train the teachers and marine institution staff who will be working with the program. Implementation of program in the high schools will occur in fall 2002.

Current proposed partner teams for Year 2 program include USC Sea Grant with a high school from the LA Unified School District and possibly Ojai High School, the South Carolina Aquarium with Wando High School, SC,  and Harvard School for Public Health with a Boston area high school, most likely Fenway High School, Boston, MA.

The program will follow a similar format to the university program, conducting the monitoring and testing procedures in a similar way to that of the university course, though it will be made age appropriate. The students will interact with scientists and other students at the other GlobalHeartbeat locations. They will participate in an online seminar to ask questions of scientists, document their findings, add data to the database and develop a web portfolio of their project.

Evaluation of the high school  program will be conducted at the conclusion of the program.  Recommendations for changes to process and content will be suggested. Ideas for expansion to more locations will be entertained. Results will be presented at conferences and on the web.


The widespread emergence of the World Wide Web and its increasing availability within the classroom makes it an important component in this program.  The proposed web site will provide a central focus and point of contact for all program participants, a place where up to date information and data will be available at any time.  Students will be able to submit their data findings directly to a central data processing facility where it will be combined with data from other participating groups. This information will be displayed in a visual manner to  ease analysis and understanding of the data recorded. The GlobalHeartbeat web site will also host an online seminar, which will provide the educational, and scientific program participants with a place to communicate and discuss their ideas and findings. This communication can be either real-time or asynchronous, depending on the program and participants needs and demands.  The ability to communicate asynchronously is crucial to this program given the differences in schedule and time zones amongst the diverse group of participants.

Project Evaluation

The evaluation team will establish criteria to assess the goals established for the two years of the project. The criteria reflect the expectations of the scientists and  educators of the design team, and those set forth by the National Sea Grant College Program Criteria.

The evaluation design is participatory and will solicit input about expected outcomes from all stakeholders, especially students served by this program. Using participant-oriented evaluation will foster the synthesis of the values, needs, and judgments of the various stakeholder groups. Formative evaluation during each phase  of the project will be an ongoing process with feedback used to make needed improvements. Summative evaluation will take place at the end of each year of the project, as laid out in the project objectives.

 A measurement instrument called the GlobalHeartbeat Learning Indicator will be created specifically for assessing student performance on this project with a set of criteria to be delineated in a rubric.  The evaluation plan comprises a variety of evaluation methods including observations, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, monitoring of the Web site and related on-line dialogue and ongoing self-evaluation. This evaluation input will be gathered from all key stakeholder groups including Sea Grant, TCOE and participating partner schools and organizations. The evaluation team will analyze the results of the various methods and synthesize these for review at the end of each year. Analyses will cover learning outcomes, partnership considerations, technical and logistical issues, and attitudinal changes.

Dr. Kristina Bishop will lead the evaluation process. She has experience conducting educational research and evaluations for the Department of Defense Schools, U.S. Department of Education, PBS MATHLINE, the Global  Schoolhouse, the ThinkQuest program, and the National Wildlife Federation. The evaluations she has conducted relate to distance learning and educational technology programs and teacher professional development.


Year 2 budget will provide labor support for project management, evaluation, database development, equipment R&D work, Web development, instructional design of learning materials, training and  online forum facilitation as outlined below.


Sea Grant will again lease equipment. Two CAPMON kits will be paid for by the project and a third kit will be partially subsidized by the project with the participant organization paying the majority of the kit cost. During this period, we will be seeking lower cost solutions for the equipment. We would plan to purchase a kit from another provider to test and compare its effectiveness. We will also seek more in kind contributions from the marine institutions and school districts.

The  College of Exploration, 230 Markwood Drive, Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Tel: (1) 703 433 5760      Email: peter@coexploration.net