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GPS Ecosystem (Ecotone) Scavenger Hunt

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Keywords: Animals, Trees, Plants, GPS, Ecotones, Ecosystems, Biology, Science, Nature
Subject(s): Biology, Earth Science, Science
Grades 9 through 12
School: Hopewell Valley Central High School, Pennington, NJ
Planned By: Eric Guise
Original Author: Eric Guise, Pennington
Name: __________ Group # ______


Identifying ecotones organisms using Satellite Navigation

Introduction: Now that you are familiar with the GPS devices we will be using, you can put them to work! You will be using your GPS device to perform a study of an ecotone in an area of your choice (within instructed boundaries). Each lab group will pick an ecotone plot area (EPA). Each group will be responsible to survey their EPA and identify the living and nonliving components.

Important Definitions:

Ecotone: The common area between two existing communities

Garmin ETrex Venture Digital camera/ Flip Camera
“Ecotone Investigation” Worksheet Tape Measure
Everything else will be there along the way! Plot Markers

Data: Each group will be responsible for performing the following surveys at their locations…

1. Visual appearance How does the EPA look to you? Note things like growth, percent producer cover, landscapes, man-made structures
(Take a picture of the EPA)

2. Conditions This is a section to document other information that could affect your EPA. Examples: hours of sun, rain, runoff, drainage
3. Ecosystems Identify the two ecosystems that make up your ecotone.
4. Biodiversity What kinds of life could this ecotone supports? What life or evidence of life can you see? Examples: Eaten leaves, feces, egg shells, nests
5. Predators/Prey What are some predator/prey relationships that could inhabit the area?
6. Trees How many different types of trees are in your EPA? How many of each type? Find the breast-height transect (BHT)

Plotting your EPA: Find an ecotone. Make a 10 X 10 yard square that straddles your ecotone. List the coordinates in the space below.
Coordinates of plot:

1. _____N ______W 2. _____N ______W 3. _____N ______W 4. _____N ______W

EPA Plant Species Diagram: Draw the living plant organisms (flowers, shrubs and trees) in the area below and make sure you include a legend. Each symbol should represent a different species (you do not need to know the names of the species… Use Flower #1, Flower #2, Tree #1)



Visual appearance





AnalysisQuestions: Answer the questions in complete sentences.

1. What two ecosystems do you have that is making up your ecotone?

2. Why is it important to record the coordinates for your study? The appearance of your EPA?

3. Construct a possible food chain for your EPA

4. What plants are thriving in your ecotone?

Lab Extension: Use the EPA Plant Species Diagram to figure out Frequency and Abundance.

Frequency Formula:

Abundance Formula:

Field Ecology:
Identifying ecotones organisms using Satellite Navigation

• Students will be able to describe characteristic of an ecotone.
• Students will be able to document characteristics of an ecotone plot area.
• Students will be able to differentiate between frequency and abudance.
• Students will be able to list ways that satellite navigation can be used to track environmental studies

• Check NJ Biology Standards 5.5

Day 1-3 (3) 45 minute instructional periods
• Introduce common NJ Flower, Shrub, and Tree species
• Assign each group with 2 of each (covering all the common species)
• Have students use Microsoft word to construct a class key for NJ Flowers, Shrubs, and Tree Species)

Day 4 Introduction of the GPS
• Split students into their lab groups and distribute GPS units to each group. Using a PowerPoint with pictures, show students how to operate the unit.
• Have 1-2 practice checkpoints set-up outside for students to practice locating.
• Close the day by having students write down as many different types of ecosystems as they can

Day 5- Ecosystems and Ecotones
• List ecosystems on the board
• Introduce ecotone definition
• Show picture examples of ecotones
• Hand out Field Ecology Ecotone lab
• Go over Lab Instructions

Day 6-7 Field Ecology Ecotone lab

• Distribute GPS units and have students find their plots
• Students may go with their lab groups and record the required data for their location
• Each student should record this data and use it to answer the analyze questions.

Extended Lab Options:
• Frequency and Abundance worksheet
• Go back to site and identify flower, shrub and tree species using the class keys that the students made

• Be aware of physical limitations of individual students, allergies, and other medical conditions

• Analysis questions will be collected and graded.
• Optional – formal written lab report analyzing the gathered data

• After students have reported their data to the class, begin discussion of the results and point out examples of some trends to the students.

Post-Lab Extensions: Using GPS Units to get students outside

What is Geocaching?


A 4 students to 1 set of equipment is ideal. A lower ratio is great. If you have a ration greater than 6:1 .... you might want to make a 2 part assignment to lower the ratio!
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
If you want to get students outside... GPS Flip Cameras are great tools!

You can have students:

Find a place of nature and write a poem about it. Mark the location and take video and pictures of their place.

For history, students could come up with a war plan of attack if they were a general in a battle using the landscape around them.

For math they could do population studies and learn how to take samples of trees in an area.
Activities are endless. For Science, you could do population studies, animal studies, habitat studies, etc.
Links: Geocaching Website
Materials: Tripods, Flash/USB Drives, Camera Bags, Camera/Video Accessories, Wildlife, Digital Cameras, Flip Video, Batteries, Memory Cards, High
Other Items: 6 Garmin eTrex Venture HD GPS Units, $129.99 each, total of $779.94
6 Flip Cameras, $150.00 each, total of $900.00