Ecology and Systems Biology: Great Salt Lake Initial Model

Today we turned our attention to the Great Salt Lake.  We learned about the organisms that live in the lake, with students taking notes on a worksheet while we worked through a Power Point slide deck.   Students learned that in a food web, organisms are drawn as nodes and the edges represent energy.  The direction of the edge indicates the predator/prey relationship, with the arrow pointing away from the prey and toward the predator.  Students then used the information from the slide deck to construct a food web on the initial model worksheet. Students had a lot of questions about using the initial model, and it’s important to keep in mind that the model of our understanding of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem will develop over time.  Scientists often develop models with incomplete data sets and then use the gaps in their understanding to devise and test hypotheses.  As scientists in training, we will also learn to work with incomplete data and we will learn to keep track of our questions and devise strategies for filling in the gaps in our knowledge.

Updated 9/30/14: We completed the initial model today, with students using scientific reasoning to assign units of energy moving through their food webs.  Students turned in both the Power Point worksheet as well as the initial model worksheet at the end of class.