TEACHING ALL VOLUMES SUBMIT WORK SEARCH TIEE
VOLUME 3: Table of Contents TEACHING ISSUES AND EXPERIMENTS IN ECOLOGY
EXPERIMENTS

What Happens

We divide the class into groups of 4-5 with each student assigned a responsibility (recorder, reporter, etc.). The groups then walk the transect, observing environmental, ecological, and socioeconomic differences. They do not collect data at this time, but take notes allowing them to describe the qualitative differences they observed. At the end of the transect, each group makes a short (1-2 min) presentation of their observations and then develops one or more hypotheses about the environmental differences. On a return trip, student groups collect data. When we extend this exercise over multiple periods, we have the groups prepare a short paper describing their observations and outlining the methods they plan to use for data collection and analysis during the subsequent lab periods.

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Lab Objectives

This lab has five objectives:

  1. Students will understand that socioeconomic gradients are a form of ecological gradient.
  2. Students will understand how social, economic, and historical factors shape the ecology of urban neighborhoods.
  3. Students will understand the relationship between the environmental issues in urban neighborhoods and the ecological characteristics of these neighborhoods.
  4. Students will develop an understanding that ecological approaches can be used to examine environmental issues particularly those in cities that are often ignored by ecologists.
  5. Student will understand that there is not a single, correct way to do science.

These objectives are achieved through this lab by having students develop a wide variety of hypotheses linking environmental differences to social, economic, and historical factors. For instance, one group hypothesized that owner-occupation would be positively associated with quality green-space, including tree size, garden condition, and maintenance of public green-space areas, including tree boxes. Research by another group revealed substantial differences in tree size among neighborhoods, particularly related to property value. Yet another group hypothesized that neighborhood socio-economic condition would correlate directly with the numbers of trees, understory vegetation density, and bird diversity.

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Equipment/Logistics Required

Required materials are limited to notebook and pen. Depending on what the group decides to investigate, and the schedule used for the exercise, other materials may be used. For instance, students have investigated tree size (DBH tape), insect diversity (trowels and paper cup pitfall traps), ground cover (sampling frame), etc. As you may have already noticed, there is a great deal of flexibility in how this exercise can be structured—and that is really only determined by your limits and student interest.

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Summary of What is Due

  1. Proposal — Student groups are assessed on either an oral or written presentation of their hypothesis and investigative design.
  2. Oral presentation — Each group is evaluated on the analysis and interpretation of data as presented to the class in a PowerPoint format.
  3. Paper(s) — The results of each groupís study is assessed based on one or two papers (ranging between 5-10 pages in total length), including figures, tables, and bibliography. Papers are formatted following standard journal style.
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Keyword Descriptors

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