Category Archives: Ecosystems

Biome Research

Our goal for this week is for students to work together in their groups to conduct a deep-dive into their assigned biome and human-caused environmental disaster.  Students must share the work load equally, documenting their efforts in a shared team Google Doc.  Groups are expected to work together to identify scientifically credible resources and to document those resources in their Google Doc.  By Friday, everyone in the group should be able to:

  • Clearly describe the biome when it is healthy (long-term climate and major vegetation).
    • Is the weather the same year-round?  Describe in detail.
    • Are there seasons in your biome?  Describe in detail.
    • Where does your biome exist on a map?  Does your biome exist in multiple places around the world?
    • How are the organisms living in the region where your assigned disaster occurred similar or different to other parts of the world with the same biome?
  • Draw the major ecosystem(s) present within the biome as a food web (complete with nodes, edges, and properly drawn arrows indicating energy flow).
    • If your biome exists in multiple places on Earth, include food webs for each site.
  • Explain what humans did to cause the environmental disaster within the biome.
    • Specificity matters – include as many details as possible about the cause of the disaster.
    • Conduct a root cause analysis: keep asking “why” and dig as deeply as you can!
  • Clearly describe the biome when it is in crisis (as a result of the environmental disaster)
  • Explain how humans have attempted to correct the problem that led to the environmental crisis (what worked, what did not work)
  • Note: If your group finishes conducting research before Friday, craft your research into a research report.  Follow standard conventions for spelling, punctuation, and grammar.  Write in complete sentences.  Proof-read and edit!  Work as a team to construct a report you can be proud of submitting.

Your project team will be assigned a biome.  Your team may choose from the options provided, or propose a different topic (must be discussed with Mr. Swart before moving on).  If multiple groups in the same class period are assigned the same biome, teams must select different project options. Teams are expected to identify additional resources beyond those provided below and incorporate those resources into their research.

Selected Project Team Resources:

Ocean Biome

Desert Biome

Forest Biome

Arctic / Tundra Biome

Rainforest (including Jungle) Biome

Wetland (including Swamp) Biome

Mountain Biome


Ecological Challenges Presentations

Students presented their work from yesterday, with each student limited to a single minute of time to present their slide to the class describing the biome they researched and a man-made ecological disaster that occurred in that biome.  The audience was tasked with making a list in their notebooks that included the name of the presenter, the biome, and the disaster.  At the end of the presentations, students selected the top three biomes they want to continue researching.  Students will be strategically placed into groups designed to honor their interests and group identities will be revealed Monday.

Earth’s Biomes

For our final section of the year, we end our study of Ecology first by studying the biomes of Earth, and then constructing models of the biomes complete with students solving a human-made problem found within each biome.

For our first day of work, students will assemble into groups of three students each.  Requirement: team members cannot have worked on a project together yet this year!

  • Step 1: Come up with a team name
  • Step 2: Select a unique color white board marker
  • Step 3: Given the definition of biome (a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g., forest or tundra), race to list as many of Earth’s biomes as possible in two minutes
  • Step 4: Describe the key features of each biome, including
    • climate (the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period)
    • dominant vegetation (plants)
  • Step 5: Select three biomes and research ecological disasters caused by humans.  Be prepared to share with the class.

Notes from the white board:


Biogeochemical Poster Project

We began the week with a brief review of what to expect on the quiz scheduled for this Friday.  Class notes are shown below:


This week, students will work in groups of three students each to create a poster representing biogeochemical cycling.  For the project, students will create a poster to model the water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur cycles on a poster with an emphasis on including the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park where possible.  Students will have access to the class textbook and the class set of laptops to conduct their research.  Students will also receive the Nutrient Cycling POGIL worksheet packet that will provide them with additional information about the process of carbon (C), water (H and O), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) cycling.  Sulfur is often included as a component of the biogeochemical cycle, frequently appreviated as the CHNOPS cycle.  To help keep student projects moving forward, a variety of resources will be posted here for review.

Crash Course: Carbon and Water Cycles

Crash Course: Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycles

Bozeman Science: Biogeochemical Cycles (includes the Sulfur Cycle)

The Global Carbon Cycle – a website with data about global carbon cycling with actual numbers that need to be added to the student posters.

Water Cycle – USGS website providing a robust review of hydrologic (water) cycle vocabulary, a presentation of the cycle itself, and data students will need to add the actual amount of water stored in various locations on Earth.

Texas A&M University has a website with pages devoted to explaining the Nitrogen Cycle.  Additional in-depth information about the Nitrogen Cycle is available on the Nature Education Knowledge Project website.

Phosphorus Cycle – information about the cycle and a nice graphic from the Shmoop University website.

Sulfur Cycle – a presentation provided by The Environmental Literacy Council

Example poster

Growing, growing, grown

For our abbreviated Friday class period, students were assigned to read pages 656-661 from the BSCS biology textbook and to complete the following:

  • Summarize the main ideas
  • Define the vocabulary words (in bold) and provide context for each word (an example of what the word means in relation to what the reading is about)
  • Answer Part B, questions 3a-c, on page 647

Food Web game

After several days of research and reading, we lightened the mood with the Food Web Game.  Students teamed up into groups of three, with each team receiving a container of rice.  The rice represented seeds, which comprised the base of our food chain.  One member of the team counted out 10 grains of rice and handed them to the runner who traded them in for one lentil.  The recorder wrote a tally mark to indicate they had received a lentil on a note card.  When the team reached 10 lentils, they traded those in for one white bean (representing a red fox).  The game ended when the first team was able to trade in 10 white beans for one black bean and then all members of the team had to howl like a wolf.  The game helped represent the energy it takes to sustain a single tertiary consumer, with energy loss represented by the energy students spent running back and forth during the activity.


Trophic Pyramid of Yellowstone

We continued our study of the ecosystem of Yellowstone by introducing the concept of trophic levels.  We worked through the Trophic Pyramid PowerPoint slide deck, emphasizing the vocabulary of producers and consumers, herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.  We took the population mass data from yesterday (see below) and began making sense of the data on the What are Trophic Pyramid handout (see below), the food webs students have been constructing, and our new understanding of trophic levels to construct a Yellowstone Trophic Pyramid.

What are Trophic Pyramids? (front)
What are Trophic Pyramids? (back)