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Understanding Interactions Among Local Species and the Local Environment

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Keywords: Biology, Ecology, Ecosystem, Habitat, Niche
Subject(s): Biology
Grades 11 through 12
School: Los Alamos High School, Los Alamos, NM
Planned By: Stephanie Mitchell
Original Author: Stephanie Mitchell, Los Alamos
Preparation Before Class:
Use accepted scientific methods to collect, analyze, and interpret data and observations and to design and conduct scientific investigations and communicate results.
Understand how the survival of species depends on biodiversity and on complex interactions, including the cycling of matter and the flow of energy.

Objectives. Students will
1. Distinguish between biotic and abiotic factors in the environment.
2. Explain the difference between a habitat and a niche.
3. Compare different levels of biological organization and living relationships important in ecology.
4. Compare how organisms satisfy their nutritional needs.
5. Trace the path of energy and matter in an ecosystem.
6. Identify some common limiting factors.
7. Explain biodiversity and its importance

Key Vocabulary: (list)
Abiotic factor, biological community, biotic factor, ecology, ecosystem, habitat, niche, population, autotroph, decomposer food chain, food web, heterotroph, trophic level, limiting factor, producer, consumer, herbivore, omnivore, carnivore,

Materials, Texts, Worksheets, and/or Other Resources: (list)
Mobile Digital Camera Lab
Computer Pod – individual notebook computers for each student

Day 1:
Students look up vocabulary terms in the glossary of their textbook. Have students create a memory game with the vocabulary on notebook computers. Students play memory game to learn vocabulary terms.

Give each student a personal digital camera. Show students how to work camera.
Take students outside.
Students should take pictures of:
1. Three abiotic factors in the environment
2. Three autotrophs
3. A first order heterotroph
4. A second order heterotroph
5. A decomposer

Students download their photos to their computer.

Day 2 and 3:
Give each student a computer. Students should research at least three organisms from the photos they took.
1. Find the common name of each organism.
2. Find the scientific name
3. Describe their habitats and distribution across the world.
4. Describe their niches.
5. Label the organisms as producers, consumers, herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, or decomposers
6. Print out a picture with the above information listed below the picture.

Students will take their pictures and those of their classmates and construct several food chains.
Students should work together to create a food web with all the pictures.

Have students develop hypotheses based on their observations of the local ecosystem. Students should design an experiment to test their hypotheses. Have students evaluate each other’s experiments for feasibility.

Day 4:
Divide students into groups of 3. Each group should conduct one of the experiments.

Materials: Mobile Labs, Digital Cameras, Wildlife, Point and Shoot, Digital SLR, Printers, Camera/Video Accessories, Camera Bags, Flash/USB Drives, Tripods, Batteries, Memory Cards, CDs and DVDs, Cables