Category Archives: Ecology

Ecological Challenges

Our biome work continues today with students investigating the “human caused ecological disasters” they identified yesterday for the three biomes they selected.  Student groups will present preliminary findings to the class tomorrow.  Students should create one Google Slide for each of the biomes (one disaster per biome) and the slide should include as much of the following information as possible:

  • Year(s) the human-caused ecological disaster occurred
  • Description of biome pre-disaster
  • Explanation of what humans did to cause the disaster
  • Description of biome post-disaster
  • Effect of disaster on the plants and animals (including humans!)
  • Remediation efforts (how humans have tried to “fix” the damage)

Example of slide layout:


A selection of resources are provided below:

SuperFund Sites in the USA

10 worst man-made environmental disasters

Ecology: Ecology

With an extended advisory scheduled to support the Pirate Pride work party, we used our 30 minutes of class time to sprint through the key learning about ecology.  Some of the content originated previously during the Harmful Algal Bloom portion of Unit 1 as well as during the energy and metabolism unit (Unit 2).  The notes below highlight the key learning about ecology that students should commit to memory prior to the Biology EOC Exam.


Cells & Homeostasis: Seahurst Park Field Trip

Today was the big Seahurst Park field trip.  Over 100 students and 12 adult chaperones traveled by bus down to the park where we met our hosts from the Environmental Science Center (ESC).  ESC staff guided groups of students through six stations, with students spending a half-hour per station.

Watersheds (with Joanna): Students used a physical model of a city to learn how buildings, vehicles, pets, and other sources all contribute to the accumulation of pollution in Puget Sound.  Students each shared one way they would personally help reduce their own impact on the environment.

IMG_0017Water Quality Testing (with Jennifer): Students first read a brief article highlighting why harmful algae blooms occur (below).  Students then measured a variety of factors related to water quality by sampling water sources from around the park.  Students worked in groups, with each rotation measuring one of the following: dissolved oxygen, phosphate, nitrate, pH, and turbitidy.  Students compiled the data into mini lab reports, sharing out their findings with each other and then analyzing it through graphing and writing a brief conclusion.

Plankton Tow (with Kelly): Students collected samples of Puget Sound plankton using a plankton tow.  Samples were collected into cups for analysis during the Plankton Lab.

IMG_0014IMG_0015Plankton Lab (with Jarett): Before using the microscopes to see the plankton in their Plankton Tow samples, students watched two brief videos to help them better understand the scale and consequences of harmful algae blooms (HABs).  The first video, “Toxic algae blooms contaminate U.S. drinking water,” explains the impact of HABs on marine life, the fishing industry, and consumers.  The second video, “Toxic Algae Bloom Causing Seizures in Sea Lions,” shows the neurotoxic effect of the algae toxin domoic acid on a sea lion found on the Washington coast.  Students then viewed their own plankton under a microscope.  Identification cards created by the Washington Sea Grant were used to identify species of plankton observed by students.  Specifically, the Marine Zooplankton of Puget Sound card and the Marine Phytoplankton of Puget Sound card (pictured below) were provided.

Recycling (with Megan): Students learned all about how various types of common household waste can be separated into recycling, food waste, and garbage.  The CleanScapes Recology community education program emphasized the importance of properly disposing of the various types of waste, with a focus on the types of waste often generated by teenagers.

Bioaccumulation Game (with Brendan): Poker chips, bags, arm bands, a few bright orange vests, and an energetic group of students was all it took to bring to life the concept of bioaccumulation.  The game began with more than half the students (representing small fish preyed upon by salmon) scrambling around for 30 seconds to fill bags with poker chips (plankton) that had been scattered around in the grass.  Next, the salmon were released, represented by students wearing bright green arm bands.  When a “salmon” touched a smaller fish, the smaller fish gave the salmon their poker chips, representing a transfer of energy.  After another 30 seconds, the orca entered the game (two students wearing bright orange vests) and devoured most of the salmon who then turned over their poker chips to the orca.  When the game ended, the two orca had most of the poker chips.  Students were then pushed to consider what might happen to the orca if a biotoxin were present in the environment and was being consumed by species lower toward the base of the food chain.

This was such a fantastic opportunity for students to visit a beautiful local park, interact with the talented and dedicated ESC staff, and spend the day bonding with peers and staff from our school, our district central office, and our community.  There are an enormous number of people to thank for making today a success, and my students will be recognizing all of the behind-the-scenes people in the coming days.

Looking ahead, we will use our experience today as the basis for the final part of our first unit.  As students make sense of what they learned and begin to take ownership of their own power to protect our local environment, they will be challenged to publicly share their learning.  Stay tuned!

Field Study: Fieldwork – Day 2

On Friday, students went back out to the front lawn to collect their second day of field study data, recording their data on the field study worksheet.  Even with the short period, many student groups were able to analyze their samples back in the classroom.  Students used a variety of lab techniques, including soil composition analysis, digital microscopy, and image histogram analysis.

Field Study: Field Study Basics

We began our Field Study unit learning about what a field study is and how scientists actually do field studies.  Students brainstormed ideas for field studies focusing on understanding the impact of various variables on the ecology of our school’s front lawn.  We marked a picture of the lawn off into sectors, and students went outside to identify sectors they will use for their field study.  For the remainder of the class period, students worked in pairs to write a procedure for their field study.  The slide deck is available here.

Cells and Homeostasis: Presentations

Great presentations today!  It was neat to watch students share their solutions to the Great Salt Lake causeway with each other.  Scientists often communicate information through presentations, and we will continue to develop presentation skills throughout the year.

Two quick reminders:

  • Students, please remember to bring your textbooks to class on Monday.
  • Over the weekend, gently place an egg in cup and cover it with vinegar.  Carefully observe the egg each day, recording observations.  Bring your observations with you to class on Monday.  If possible, leave the egg in vinegar until we can discuss the outcome of the experiment in class on Monday.

Cells and Homeostasis: Preparing Presentations

Today students worked in their groups to prepare the presentations they will deliver tomorrow to their classmates.  Instructions were as follows:

Presentations should last 3-5 minutes per group and all members must have at least one speaking part.

Presentations should include:

Project design (artistic representation)

Hypothesis (If…then…because…)

Manipulated variable (what you are changing)

Responding variable (the change you are measuring)

Risk & benefit to ecosystem

Risk & benefit to railroad

Data needed to complete project