The Gulf of Mexico: Layers of Life

The Gulf of Mexico: Layers of Life

Use this infographic to learn about the biodiversity that is found within the Gulf of Mexico, and how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 affected the Gulf’s wildlife.


5 - 8


Biology, Ecology, Geography, Physical Geography

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Morgan Stanley

Idea for Use in the Classroom

Begin exploring life in the Gulf of Mexico by characterizing the different habitats featured on the infographic using the text and illustrations. As a class, outline examples of how abiotic and biotic factors within one habitat may interact with another. Next, assign one featured species to each student to predict the species’ niche based on the information provided. Students can perform outside research to confirm their predictions and learn more. Have students share their findings and then build a food web representing the Gulf ecosystem using as many researched species as possible.

Focus on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by using the inset map to understand the spread of the spill and by reviewing the text. Prompt students to predict how the oil spill might have immediately impacted each of their respective species given their species’ niche. Challenge students to describe how negative impacts to their species could affect other organisms within the ecosystem using the class food web to support their claims.

Broaden understanding of the spill’s impacts by directing student groups to research how each habitat has been affected since the spill, and what long-term effects are predicted. As a class, discuss why it may be difficult to assess the damage and accurately predict effects within some habitats and not others. Revisit the interactions between habitats to highlight how damage to one habitat can impact others. Finally, propose solutions to aid the recovery of the Gulf and protect it from future harm. Encourage students to develop solutions at governmental and personal levels.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
André Gabrielli, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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