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UNIT 3 Marine systems study guide

This product is proudly Australian Made

ISBN : 978-1-86283-173-5

Published Date : 21 October 2021

Product Code : F 49P

Format : FREE downloadable pdf with school licence

by Adam Richmond, Gail Riches,  Dr Teressa Yantsch and Bob Moffatt

Note: File size is 120 Mb.  Convert to power points with adobe acrobat pro.


This publication should be cited and acknowledged as:

Queensland Marine Science Syllabus Guide V1.2 Unit 3.1 Marine systems connections and change, written by Adam Richmond, Gail Riches, Dr Teressa Yantsch and Bob Moffatt, Wet Paper Publications 2020.

Teachers Information

Self-funding legacy

This Wet Paper legacy project is self-funded from the sales of a small number of books to allow future marine educators to take our original ideas from 2021 and make them relevant in 5, 10 or even 20 years in the future.


The Moffatt Group Australia Pty Ltd 2020.


The publication is FREE.


With the exception of the content supplied by third parties, logos and other materials protected by trademark, the content of this publication is licensed under the Creative Commons By Attribution, NonCommercial, Share Alike Licence.  A summary of licence terms is available from the Creative Commons.


This unit comprises 44 pdf interpretative guides for Topics 1 and 2 of Unit 3: Marine systems – connections and change from the Queensland Marine Science V1.2 QCAA syllabus January 2019.

These guides which were produced as part of the Wet Paper legacy project for teacher in service between 2017 - 2021 by project team members Bob Moffatt, Adam Richmond, Dr Teresa Yantisch and Gail Riches in conjunction with 35 Queensland schools, the Primary Industries Education Foundation, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Reef Guardians Program and the Marine Teachers Association of Queensland.

The guides link to a wide range journal articles, web references, video links, information from marine education publications and draw on a wide range of marine education experience from the project team.

The pdf files are designed for teachers to create their own school power point presentations and are written to satisfy the standards of the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. 

Background, funding and sponsorship
Between the November 2016 – June 2021, Wet Paper created a pdf convert to power point series for the 2019 Queensland Marine Science syllabus using resources from

  • financial contributions of 35 schools
  • sponsorship from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia and
  • support from members of the Marine Teachers Association of Queensland.

These resources were applied to developing 90 power points for Units 3 and 4 of the then, new, un-trialled Queensland Marine Science Syllabus by

  • paying three teachers to be timetabled at either 0.2, 0.4 or 0.6, from their respective schools, for times ranging from 3 - 9 months
  • organising conference promotions and limited peer review
  • contracting editorial and technical production expenses
  • renting cloud server space and software programs

In 2018 Bob outlined the project at a presentation at the MTAQ conference entitled

New marine science syllabus resources

In September 2019 the largely un-peer reviewed trial power points were mailed by USB to the 35 schools.

From October 2019 - April 2021 a series of surveys and workshops were conducted using marine teacher volunteers from these 35 schools who provided valuable input into the functionality of the design. The final product is the result of the 5 years’ work from all those individuals and organisations acknowledged below.


Creates manageable sized files that are licensed to share with students from school cloud servers that assist with remote learning situations with the following features

  • Syllabus subject matter statement, definitions, syllabus verb/s and explanations
  • Syllabus statement explanations
  • Journal article sources and links
  • U tube video/s links
  • Matching worksheets
  • Attributions and links from all sourced data


The design aims to provide

A. In-service resources for teachers who have limited knowledge of the syllabus subject matter statements who may be either

  • Experienced teachers who have a general science degree with no marine science major
  • Inexperienced teachers who have a marine science major, but need a framework to develop lessons for syllabus specific statements
  • Relief teachers with little marine science experience asked to teach classes due to timetable issues or the unavailability of a marine science teacher

B. A flexible, modifiable, uncomplicated pdf resource for experienced Marine Science teachers that

  • can be converted to power points and then modified to suit the individual teacher’s presentation style
  • sources all copyright and licence details for the school administrators
  • provides a numbered arrangement of syllabus topics that can be tracked for future syllabus changes and communicated easily in class
  • has a manageable file size for school supplied laptops and cloud server download speeds

C. Assistance for Queensland students unable to attend school, need additional materials to help them study for their external exam or education systems from other parts of the world interested in senior school marine science education

Conversion to Adobe power point

The pdfs are converted to power points using Adobe acrobat pro.

Australia first

As far as we can establish, this is the first time a complete Australian syllabus has been ever been interpreted by providing copyright of the commons licenced lessons for each syllabus topic.


It is important to acknowledge the following  schools, organisations, tertiary institutions and individuals for their outstanding contributions to this project from September 2017 – April 2020.  


From 2016 - 2018 Wet Paper created a year 11 power point series for the 2019 Queensland Marine Science syllabus. Funds raised from financial contributions by 35 schools, as well as sponsorship, were applied to paying three teachers to be timetabled to 0.6 at their respective schools for between 6 - 9 months to develop these 90 year 12 study guides.   Students and teachers in Queensland, and in many cases around Australia, will be forever grateful for your contribution.

Bayside Christian College, Bentley Park College, Benowa SHS, Bribie Island SHS, Burdekin Christian College, Benowa SHS, Burnside SHS, Caboolture State High School, Caloundra SHS, Chanel College, Cleveland District SHS, Clontarf Beach SHS, Discovery Christian College, Emmanual College, Gladstone SHS, Innisfail State College,  Iona College, Kawana Waters State College, Marymount College, Matthew Flinders College, Miami State High School, Mirani SHS, Mountain Creek SHS, Noosa DSHS, Pimpima SHS, Pioneer State High School, Proserpine SHS, Redlands College, Redlynch State College, Sarina SHS, Southern Cross Catholic College, St Andrew's Anglican College, St Brendans Yeppoon, St Patrick's College, St Peters College, Sunshine Beach SHS, Tagai State College, Trinity Anglican Cairns, Unity College Caloundra, Urangan SHS, Xavier Catholic College and Yeppoon State High School.


During the course of the project, venues were required for meetings and workshops, conferences for peer review as well as sourcing supplementary funding to pay for editing, software hire and cloud storage.  To these organisations - we are extremely grateful.

Australian Antarctic Division, Australian Marine Safety Authority, Australian Maritime College, Australian Museum, Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions, Below H20, Bureau of Meteorology, Capricornia Conservation Council, Coombabah State High School, Copyright Clearance Center - RightsLink, Coral Finder BYO Guides, DAF - Department of Fisheries QLD, Deep Reef, Deep Voyage Images, Geoscience Australia, Gladstone State High, Gold Coast City Council, Gombemberri People, Google maps, Gould League, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Greenpeace, Heron Island Research Station, Institute for Marine Remote Sensing (IMaRS), Joli Photography, Kalwun Corporation, Mozaik Underwater Cameras, New South Wales Fisheries, New South Wales Fishing Industry Booklets, NOAA, Oregon State University, Orpheus Island Research Station, Pixabay , Qld Fish Management Authority, Queensland Fisheries, Queensland Museum, Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland Transport, RightsLink /Springer Nature, Therese  DAF Customer Service Officer, Underwater Rehlms, Underwater Rhelms Images, University of Hawaii Curriculum research and development group, University of Tasmania, Viewfinder Australia, WaterWise/Watch Queensland, Western Australia Conservation and Land Management, Western Australian Fisheries, Woodbridge Marine Centre.



A project of this size requires networking of teachers, wide consultation, provision of letters of support, resources in locating images, helping with permissions both with IP and releasing teachers from class and sourcing sponsorship.  To these individuals we express our deepest thanks.

Adam Richmond, Alexis Evans, Andrew Jolley, Andrew Gill, Ann More, Ben Stockwin, Brad Lawrence, Brad Spring, Bronwyn Williams, Caledonia Yore, Chris Pacey, Christopher Pacey, Claire Andersen, Claire Gibson, Danny Brentnall, David Fisser, Diane Crewe, Digby Edwards, Drew McLean, Fred Nucifora, Gail Riches, Glenn Bryant, Glenn Galea, Jenny Strodl, John Dixon, Jonathan Grice, Jordan Northall, Karla Ward, Katie Corbett, Kim Wilson, Kirsten Breeden, Lauren Coleman, Lorian Woolgar, Lorraine Lowcock , Lucy Mudge, Mark Hainke, Mark Staniforth, Martin Taylor, Matt Allen, Megan Connell, Melinda Kingaby, Michael Howe, Mitchell Keyes, Neil French, Nika Langham, Pam Jensen, Paul Heffernan, Peter Wick, Rachel Cook, Ryan Ramasamy, Ryan Vasta, Sharon Hendy-Moman, Sheree Bell, Tanya Wood, Teressa Yantsch, Terrina Bailey, Trent Unsworth, Vanessa Randazzo, Vanessa Randazzo, Victoria Chapman and Yvonne Crowley.



The production of over 7000 pages of IP requires the use of a wide variety of sources. Video links, photographs, journal articles, illustrations and study guide text requires permission.  The syllabus is very new, without a recognised textbook, with content drawn form journal articles and tertiary courses.  To these tertiary institutions, government agencies, organisations and  journal publishing houses - we express our deepest thanks.

Aurora Expeditions, Australian Antarctic Division, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Marine Safety Authority, Australian Maritime College, Australian Museum, Australian National Antarctic Research , Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions, Ballina State High School, Below H20, Benowa State High School, Boyne Island EEC, Bureau of Meteorology, Capricornia Conservation Council, Coombabah State High School, Coral Princess Cruises, CSIRO Marine Laboratories Tasmania, Deep Voyage Images, Fishermans Whalf Seafoods, Geoscience Australia, Gladstone State High, Gold Coast City Council, Gombemberri People, Google maps, Gould League, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority , Greenpeace, Heron Island Research Station, Jacobs Well Sewage Action Committee, Joli Photography, Kalwun Corporation, Lodders Creeks Committee, Marine Teachers Association of New South Wales, Marine Teachers Association of Queensland, Marine Teachers Association of Western Australia, New South Wales Fisheries, New South Wales Fishing Industry Booklets,  North Keppel Island Environmental Education Centre, Orpheus Island Research Station, Qld Fish Management Authority, Queenscliff Marine Centre, Queensland Fisheries, Queensland Museum, Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland Transport, Reef HQ, Tassal Industries, Underwater Rehlms, Underwater Rhelms Images, Underwater World, University of Tasmania, Viewfinder Australia, WaterWise/Watch Queensland, Western Australia Conservation and Land Management, Western Australian Fisheries, and Woodbridge Marine Centre  


Over the course of the project many people were Emailed seeking permission to use their photographs, illustrations, tables and text.  In nearly every case we were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, support and kindness shown.   To these individuals - we express our deepest thanks.

Adam Richmond, Andrew Gill, AIMS Commercial Services Group , Barry Bruce, Bernie Cook, Bob Winters, Dave Claridge, David Tulip, Diana Kleine, Eric Lawrey , Geoff Jensen, Graham Anderton, Gwen Connolly, Harry Bingham, John Burnett, Joyce Summers, Jumbo Aerial Photography, Justin Marshall, Kaleb Smith, Kerry Kitzelman, Kym McKauge, Laurie Adams, Len Zell, Lloyd Jones, Melinda Coleman, Michael Redding, Mike Sugden, MurrayWaite, Nancy Tsernjavski, Natalie Jorna, Neville Coleman, Nick Kirby, Ove Hoegh‑Guldberg, P. Koloi, Patrick Nunn, PeterWilson, Phillip Colla, Ray Troll, Rhonda Banks, Ria Tan, Rose Bedford, Russel Bradford, Russell Kelley, Seneye Support Team, Sharyn Madder, Sheree Bell, Simone Baker, Sina Löschke , Sonia Batley, Steven Byers, Sue Oats, Tim Ryan, Tom Allitson, Tom Walmsley and  Zoe Richards 

The files

Download links

Subject matter statements have been categorised under sub-topics T070 – T 160, to follow on from the Year 11 power points.

The files will be LR pdfs, in zip folders, of between 12 – 43Mb.

MTAQ presentation

Download how the project was presented at the 2018 MTAQ conference

Click here

Support Material

Gail Riches
Year 12 Marine Science Student Workbook


Topic 1: The reef and beyond

A. Coral reef distribution

T070 Identify reefs globally

T071 Coral geographic distribution

T072 Coral geological record

T073 GBR and sea level change

T074 Reef structures

T075 Reef cross-section zonation

Syllabus subject matter statements

T 070 Identify the distribution of coral reefs globally and in Australia 

T 071 Identify abiotic factors that have affected the geographic distribution of corals over geological time including dissolved oxygen, light availability, salinity, temperature, substrate, aragonite and low levels of nitrates and phosphates 

T 072 Recall that corals first appeared within the geological record over 250 million years ago but not in Australian waters until approximately 500 000 years ago 

T 073 Recognise that the Great Barrier Reef of today has been shaped by changes in sea levels that began over 20 000 years before present (BP) and only stabilised 6500 years BP 

T 074 Recall the different types of reef structure (e.g. fringing, platform, ribbon, atolls, coral cays) 

T 075 Recognise the zonation within a reef cross-section (e.g. reef slope, reef crest/rim, lagoon/back reef). 

B. Coral reef development 

T076 Coral groups

T077 Classify to genus

T078 Coral anatomy

T079 Coral limestone skeleton

T080 Coral feeding

T081 Coral symbiosis

T082 Coral life cycle

T083 Larval dispersal

T084 How reefs grow

T085 Abiotic factors affecting reef distribution

Subject matter statements

T 076 Recall the following groups of coral: Alcyonacea ‘soft corals’ and the two morphological groups within Scleractinia ‘hard corals’ — reef-forming/ hermatypic and non-reef forming/ ahermatypic

T 077 Classify a specific coral to genus level only, using a relevant identification key 

T 078 Identify the anatomy of a typical reef-forming hard coral including skeleton, corallite, coelenteron, coral polyp, tentacles, nematocyst, mouth and zooxanthellae 

T 079 Recall that the limestone skeleton of a coral is built when calcium ions [Ca2+] combine with carbonate ions [CO32–] 

T 080 Describe the process of coral feeding (including night-feeding patterns and the function of nematocysts) 

T 081 Identify and describe the symbiotic relationships in a coral colony (including polyp interconnections and zooxanthellae) 

T 082 Recall the life cycle stages of a typical reef-forming hard coral (asexual: fragmentation, polyp detachment; sexual: gametes, zygotes, planulae, polyp/asexual budding) 

T 083 Explain the process of larval dispersal, site selection, settlement and recruitment 

T 084 Explain that growth of reefs is dependent on accretion processes being greater than destructive processes 

T 085 Assess data of abiotic factors (e.g. dissolved oxygen, salinity, substrate) that affect the distribution of coral reefs. 

C. Reef habitats and connectivity 

T086 Corals as engineers

T087 Reef rugosity

T088 Connectivity in reef ecosystems

T089 Fish life cycles

T090 Fish reef benefits

T091 Ecological tipping points

T092 Reef hysteresis

T093 Assess reef diversity

T094 Analyse reef diversity

T095 Interpret reef changes

T096 Water quality on reefs

T097 Water quality overall effects

T098 Conduct connectivity experiment  

Subject matter statements

T 086 Recognise that corals are habitat formers or ecosystem engineers 

T 087 Explain that habitat complexity (rugosity), established by corals, influences diversity of other species 

T 088 Explain connectivity between ecosystems and the role this plays in species replenishment 

T 089 Understand that fish life cycles are integrated within a variety of habitats including reef and estuarine systems

T 090 Describe how fish, particularly herbivore populations, benefit coral reefs 

T 091 Identify ecological tipping points and how this applies to coral reefs 

T 092 Describe hysteresis and how this applies to the concept of reef resilience 

T 093 Assess the diversity of a reef system using a measure that could include (but is not limited to) line intercept transects, quadrats and fish counts using underwater video survey techniques, benthic surveys, invertebrate counts and rugosity measurements 

T 094 Analyse reef diversity data, using an index, to determine rank abundance 

T 095 Interpret, with reference to regional trends, how coral cover has changed on a reef over time 

T 096 Recognise that some of the factors that reduce coral cover  (e.g. crown-of-thorns) are directly linked to water quality 

T 097 Understand that the processes in this sub-topic interact to have an overall net effect, i.e. they do not occur in isolation. 

T 098 Examine the concept of connectivity in a habitat by investigating the impact of water quality on reef health. 


Topic 2: Changes in the reef

A. Anthropogenic change 

T099 Potential reef futures

T100 Global anthropogenic factors

T101 Specific reef pressures

T102 Holocene coral cores 

T103 Shelford’s law and coral bleaching

T104 GBR thermal data

T105 Ecological effects of bleaching

T106 Bleaching recovery conditions

T107 Compare regional bleaching

T108 Interpret coral core data

Subject matter statements

T 099 Analyse results from models to determine potential reef futures under various scenarios

T 100 Recall the global anthropogenic factors affecting the distribution of coral (i.e. coral mining, pollution: organic and non-organic, fishing practices, dredging, climate change, ocean acidification and shipping)

T 101 Describe the specific pressures affecting coral reefs (i.e. surface run-off, salinity fluctuations, climate change, cyclic crown-of-thorns outbreaks, overfishing, spills and improper ballast)

T 102 Recognise that during the Holocene no evidence of coral bleaching or ocean acidification can be found within coral cores dating back 6000 years

T 103 Explain the concept of coral bleaching in terms of Shelford’s law of tolerance

T 104 Interpret thermal threshold data for reefs in the northern, central and southern sections of the Great Barrier Reef in relation to the likelihood of a bleaching event

T 105 Use a specific case study to evaluate the ecological effects on other organisms (e.g. fish) after a bleaching event has occurred

T 106 Describe the conditions necessary for recovery from bleaching events

T 107 Compare the responses to bleaching events between two regions, while recognising that coral cover increases on resilient reefs once pressures are reduced or removed

T 108 Interpret data, including qualitative graphical data of coral cores, that demonstrates that coral cores can act as a proxy for the climate record (i.e. they provide information on the changes in weather patterns and events affecting the composition of coral communities)

B. Ocean equilibria 

T109 pH and carbonates

T110 Geology and carbonates

T111 C02, temperature and pH

T112 C02 and ocean chemistry 

T113 Ocean acidification

T114 Carbonate compensation depth

T115 Oceans C02 capacity

Subject matter statements

T 109 Explain the reason for differences between ocean pH and freshwater — presence of carbonate buffering system

T 110 Explain that the carbonate system is linked to geological processes and operates on geological timescales

T 111 Recognise that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide influences both global temperature and ocean pH

T 112 Describe sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and how this influences ocean chemistry

T 113 Describe the effect of ocean acidification on sea water in terms of increasing the concentration of hydrogen ions decreasing the concentration of carbonate ions

T 114 Explain how the carbonate compensation depth (CCD) varies due to depth, location and oceanographic processes such as upwelling and coastal influences

T 115 Understand that the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide is changing and is linked to temperature (uptake) and changes in primary productivity (storage, e.g. biological pump).

C.  Implications for marine systems

T116 Carbonates and shells

T117 Carbonate system and pH

T118 Ocean acidification experiments

T119 Ocean acidification and coral reefs

T120 Acidification and resilience

T121 Investigating ocean pH   

Subject matter statements

T 116 Recognise that the type of carbonate ions and concentration of ions have an implication for the development of shell-forming and skeletal-forming organisms including hard corals (Scleractinia), coralline algae, molluscs, plankton and crustaceans

T 117 Interpret trends in data in relation to the carbonate system and changes in pH

T 118 Distinguish between laboratory-scale and field-based experiments and what they demonstrate about ocean acidification

T 119 Describe the potential consequences of ocean acidification for coral reef ecosystems

T 120 Explain how resilience may partially offset ocean acidification responses in the short term.

T 121 Investigate the effects an altered ocean pH has on marine carbonate structures  (Mandatory practical).