The following resource is a 5-part lesson sequence designed for students to investigate underwater geological features using bathymetry images developed by voyage researchers on RV Investigator. Students will extend their understanding of the use of SONAR and plot modified bathymetric data to construct an image of the seafloor.

An Introduction to Bathymetry

Olivia Belshaw, Jindabyne Central School, New South Wales

Nature of the inquiry problem

How do scientists know what lies beneath the sea surface?

Suitable year levels and subject areas

Earth Science Year 9/ Senior Earth Science

Curriculum links

Australian Curriculum Science

Year 9

  • The theory of plate tectonics explains global patterns of geological activity and continental movement. (ACSSU180)
  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, is contestable and is refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community (ACSHE157)
  • Advances in scientific understanding often rely on technological advances and are often linked to scientific discoveries (ACSHE158)
  • Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence (ACSIS170)

Senior Earth Sciences

  • Development of complex models and/or theories often requires a wide range of evidence from multiple individuals and across disciplines (ACSES009)(ACSES038)
  • Conduct investigations, including using map and field location techniques and environmental sampling procedures, safely, competently and methodically for the collection of valid and reliable data (ACSES032)
  • Select, construct and use appropriate representations, including maps and other spatial representation, diagrams and flow charts, to communicate conceptual understanding, solve problems and make predictions (ACSE035)

NSW Marine Studies Senior Course

Optional module 7: Oceanography

Learning Objectives

Students will learn about underwater geological features and how scientists map the sea floor, looking at specific examples of bathymetric maps collected from the RV Investigator 2019 voyage into the Coral Sea. Students will apply skills to interpret maps, construct a 3D model and plot modified bathymetry data.

Student Learning Outcomes*

Students will

  • Learn about the process of bathymetry and the role of SONAR
  • Investigate the range of underwater geological features
  • Apply knowledge to interpret actual bathymetric images obtained by the RV Investigator
  • Use data from bathymetry maps to create a 3D model of an underwater geological feature
  • Plot modified bathymetric data to construct an image of the sea floor and identify the possible feature mapped

A sequence of 5 to 6 x 50 minute lessons that include a variety of learning tasks including discussion, modelling, research, comprehension and application tasks.

Assessment outcomes

A short formative quiz is included if teachers wish to use it to assess student learning.

Information and communications technology (ICT)

Students will need access to a device to complete the research components.

Teachers can print out copies of the Investigator Blog articles for students without access to the internet at home.

Teachers will need access to a computer and projector to display images of the bathymetry maps.


© An Introduction to Bathymetry (created by Olivia Belshaw) (2019). Copyright owned by Department for Education, New South Wales. Except as otherwise noted, this work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International

Download the lesson here

An Introduction to Bathymetry [pdf · 1mb]

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