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BIO102L: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Lab

Unit 7: Ecology and Ecosystems   The interactions between organisms and their environments is an area of considerable current research both for researchers in basic biology (studying the subject in order to increase the field of knowledge) and those in applied biology (studying the subject with a particular practical purpose in mind); our changing climate, human-altered habitats, and introductions of invasive species have made ecosystems and their ecology even more variable than ever before.  In this unit, you will be able to examine online models and simulations that describe and examine the effects of changes in predators, prey, and habitat on populations and communities.

Unit 7 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 5.5 hours to complete.

Note that this advisory does not account for the time it might take you to complete the optional diversity study.

Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- List the various factors that can influence communities and ecosystems. - Suggest situations in which certain factors would have more or less influence on communities and ecosystems. - Design simulation experiments or studies that would allow you to test the effects of different factors on ecosystems.

7.1 Ecological Interactions   - Web Media: The Habitable Planet’s “Ecology Lab” Link: The Habitable Planet’s “Ecology Lab” (HTML, Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Click on the instructions for the first activity, “The Producers,” to understand the premise of the model.  Read all steps, then click to open the simulator and run the model.  This interactive lab will allow you to visualize the community interrelationships of niche partitioning and competition and see how these relationships are affected by predators (in this case, by the introduction of an herbivore to the two-plant community).
 
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  • Activity: The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the Chicago Botanical Garden's Project Budburst; or Oregon State's "How to conduct a vegetation study using sampling;" or Great Lakes Worm Watch "Earthworm and Habitat Studies" Link: The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the Chicago Botanical Garden's “Project Budburst” (HTML); or Oregon State's "How to conduct a vegetation study using sampling" (HTML) or Great Lakes Worm Watch "Earthworm and Habitat Studies" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Follow the links above and choose one of the three activities as a field study for you to conduct. The work for Project Budburst and the Worm Watch are more structured, while you can use the directions on Conducting a vegetation study to design your own experiment based on what plant life is around you. Pick whichever project is more practical for you and interests you the most.
     
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7.2 The Flow of Matter   - Web Media: The Habitable Planet’s “Carbon Lab” Link: The Habitable Planet’s “Carbon Lab” (HTML, Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Read the overview for this activity, and then read through each of the Lesson’s steps and questions before beginning any simulations.  When you are ready to begin a simulation, click the “open simulator” tab in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen.  Take notes on your simulations such that you can answer the questions asked in the introductions.  (Note: you do not have to calculate precise figures, but you should have a sense of positive and negative trends).
 
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7.3 The Flow of Energy   - Activity: The Gould League’s “Food Webs” Link: The Gould League’s “Food Webs” (HTML and Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Although this may appear to be oriented towards children, these activities, which involve placing organisms in their appropriate place within a food-web—with or without a “hint” about the organism’s diet—are actually quite challenging and end with an opportunity to view a more complex food web of all of the organisms described.
 
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  • Interactive Lab: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs: “Ecosystems, Organisms, and Trophic Levels” Link: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs “Ecosystems, Organisms, and Trophic Levels” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Read through the introduction and instructions on the left-hand side of the page before beginning the activity.  You must read through all five ecosystems, but you may choose which organisms in each ecosystem to click on and answer questions about.  This activity will allow you to investigate biomes in more detail and also test your knowledge of each ecosystem’s inhabitants and trophic relationships.
     
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  • Web Media: University of Michigan: The Flow of Energy: Higher Trophic Levels Link: University of Michigan: The Flow of Energy: Higher Trophic Levels (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this page in its entirety; it will describe for you in more detail the processes through which energy travels in ecosystems and food webs and the influence of this energy flow on trophic relationships.
     
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7.4 Connecting Energy and Ecosystems   - Web Media: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs: “Model Ecosystems” Link: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs: “Model Ecosystems” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Read through the introduction and instructions on the left-hand side of the page and then assign organisms to trophic levels for three of the five model ecosystems; at least one of the three ecosystems you choose must be aquatic (either freshwater or marine).
 
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