This 6-day long environmental science lesson includes segments on biodiversity, population dynamics and methods for studying populations. In the first section students will learn how to assess a system’s biodiversity by cataloguing and enumerating kelp-holdfasts inhabitants. After students have gained an understanding of the scientific process involved in measuring biodiversity, they will dive further in to biology at the population level by doing mark-recapture labs, calculating a population’s abundance, and exploring population structure. Lastly, students will learn about the impacts that humans can have on marine ecosystems and how this effects biodiversity and population dynamics.

Addresses foundational themes in AP environmental science of:
  • Science is a process – a method of learning about the world that constantly changes how we understand the world.
  • Energy conversions underlie all ecological processes.
  • Earth is an interconnected system.
  • Humans alter natural systems.
  • Environmental problems have social, cultural and economic contexts.
Addresses major AP Environmental science topics of:
  • Ecosystem Structure.
  • Ecosystem Diversity.
  • Natural Ecosystem Change.
  • Population Biology Concepts (does not cover reproductive strategies).
  • Diversity is just how many different types of organisms there are.
  • All kelp holdfasts will have similar types of organisms living on them because they provide the same type of habitat.
  • Not much lives on a kelp holdfast and it is probably the same all the way up the piece of kelp.
  • Holdfasts act like roots of a tree and deliver nutrients to the kelp.
  • You’ve never eaten kelp.
  • To study populations, scientists mostly put fancy hi-tech tracking devices on animals in the wild.
  • In order to know how many individuals there are in a population, you just need to count all of them.
  • All members of the same species are part of one population.
  • If individuals of the same species live close to each other, they are probably from the same population.
  • Unless humans interfere, populations stay about the same size over time.
  • Once a system has changed it just needs time to recover back to its original “healthy” state.
  • This curriculum segment involves 4 PowerPoint lectures, 1 wet lab using a kelp hold-fast (this could be substituted for an biotic assemblage eg. Clumps of moss, a designated small area of a forest floor, a decomposing log etc.), 2 dry labs including a basic mapping activity and various share-out type activities performed by small student groups.
  • Intro to Biodiversity.
  • Kelp Holdfast Wet Lab.
  • Calculating Biodiversity: Students summarize and graph their kelp data, share with group, and calculate diversity index.
  • Tracking Populations: Mark-Recapture Lab – Teacher selects own version online.
  • Photo ID & Whale Fluke Matching Activity.
  • Population Dynamics Activity: 4 activity documents for student groups – 1 on each ecosystem.
  • This curriculum was designed for use in an AP Environmental Science classroom in San Diego, CA geared towards high school juniors and seniors.
  • These activities took place over 6 days but do not need to be done consecutively and could be divided in a variety of ways and taught as stand-alone lessons lasting anywhere from 1-3 days.
  • The lessons were designed assuming some working knowledge of ecosystems, food webs, and species diversity but this is not necessarily required.
  • Assessment is informal in-class assessment of students’ ability to think creatively, form hypotheses and ask critical thinking questions, record and present observations and data and draw conclusions from evidence discovered during the activities.
  • Students are asked to graph relatively complex data in a logical way, map animal movements, draw conclusions from their findings and share the results with the class.
  • Finally, there are a few thought questions along the way and at the end of the unit that can be used as homework or as additional exam questions.
  • CA Standard Biology 6a: “Biodiversity is the sum total of different kinds of organisms and is affected by alterations of habitats”.
  • CA Standard Biology 6b: “How to analyze changes in an ecosystem resulting from changes in climate, human activity, introduction of nonnative species, or changes in population size”.
  • CA Standard Biology 8b: “A great diversity of species increases the chance that at least some organisms survive major changes in the environment”.
  • Investigation & Experimentation 1d: “Formulate explanations by using logic and evidence”.
  • Investigation & Experimentation 1f: “Distinguish between hypothesis and theory as scientific terms”.
  • Investigation & Experimentation 1k: “Recognize the cumulative nature of scientific evidence”.
  • Investigation & Experimentation 1m: “Investigate a science-based societal issue by researching the literature, analyzing data, and communicating the findings”.
  • Environmental Science Outline Topic II - The Living World: A - Ecosystem Structure, C - Ecosystem Diversity, and D - Natural Ecosystem Change.
  • Environmental Science Outline Topic III - Population: A – Population Biology Concepts.
  • Environmental Science Outline Topic VII - Global Change: C – Loss of Biodiversity.



Lesson Specifics
  • Grade Level: High school juniors and seniors.
  • Time Frame: These activities took place over 6 days but do not need to be done consecutively and could be divided in a variety of ways and taught as stand-alone lessons lasting anywhere from 1-3 days.

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