Page Contents
Organism Research
Population Simulation
Snake Tagging
confusedfsh_1_1_1.pngConduct a Fish Survey
How Many Grasshoppers?
Penguin Watch - Direct Observation
Magnifier guy_1_1.jpgEstimating Populations - Field Experience
food chain_1.pngFood Chains
Food Web_1.pngFood Webs
The Wolves of Yellowstone
Interacting Populations
Ecology Writing Prompt
Studying Populations Worksheet
Owl Pellet Investigation
Design and Build
Notes_1.pngEcology Notes
Quizlet Flash Cards
Unit Review Slideshow
Questions.pngEcology Quiz

In the Ecology Unit students will learn reasons supporting the fact that the number of organisms an environment can support depends on the physical conditions and resources available.

Questions to Ponder

  • What are some ways that scientists calculate the size of a population of organisms?

Take this Survey about Ecology before we begin the Ecology unit.

Organism Research
You will use several apps on the iPod Touch to complete an assignment about Ecology. You will be learning about the habits of a specific organism. The organisms are: Bald Eagle, Red Tail Hawk, Osprey, Fox, Raccoon, Barred Owl, Black Snake (non-venomous), Vole, and Rabbit
Just follow the instructions below to begin:
1. Open the Notes app
2. Hit + in the top right hand corner
3. Type your period number and the names of people in your group then hit return. (to type in Notes you need to touch the screen where you want to type and a keyboard will appear)
4. Type the name of your organism then hit return.
5. Hit the home button then open the Quickpedia app (this is a free app!) and search for your organism.
6. Find the following about your organism:
  • What is its habitat?
  • What is its diet?
  • What other organism does it compete with for food, shelter, etc.?
  • What might cause the population of your organism to go up and down?
  • After reading about it, what do you think is its niche?
7. Type this information into your Note. To go back and forth between programs, just hit the home button and open the app that you need. When you are done typing, just hit “done” in the top, right-hand corner.

8. When you have finished, re-read your information and check for completeness and spelling errors. Next, touch the envelope icon at the bottom. This will open the Mail app. In the To: section start typing Mail should finish it for you before you have to finish typing. Hit Send in the top, right-hand corner and you are done!

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Population Simulation

A population of organisms can change over time. Complete the following activities to better understand these changes

  1. Read this article about changing populations - The Ups and Downs of Population Growth
  2. Complete this simulation to help learn about changes in a population over time. Will the population of rabbits go up or down? Complete the simulation, then answer the three questions.
  3. Add the following terms to your two-column notes on Ecology*:
    • population
    • birth rate
    • death rate
    • immigration
    • emigration

  • be sure to include definitions, facts, and examples!

Snake Tagging

Conduct a Fish Survey - Mark and Recapture

In this activity, you will simulate a fish survey to determine the population of bluegills in a fictional lake using tagging and a mark and recapture technique.

  • 1 spoon and cup
  • small white beans
  • dark colored marker or crayon
  • calculators
  • data table

  1. Read all procedures and copy the data table at end.
  2. Get a cup half filled with white beans for your group. The cup represents a lake and the beans a bluegill population.
  3. Without disturbing (touching) the bluegills in any way, estimate the number of bluegills in your lake and record your guess in your notebook (not in the data table.)
  4. Use a spoon to collect some beans to represent the portion of the bluegills netted and tagged.
  5. Using a marker or crayon to color your fish, count and tag each bluegill that was captured and then record the number on the data table under total fish tagged. This is the only time you will mark the fish (beans.)
  6. Now, release your bluegills by pouring them back into the lake. Simulate their daily movements and interaction with the rest of the fish in the lake by shaking the cup (holding a hand over the cup so the beans don't go flying.)
  7. Use a spoon to scoop a sample of bluegill from your lake. Count the total number in the spoon - write this number down under Total Fish in Trapnet. Now, count the number in the spoon that are marked. This will be Tagged Fish in Trapnet. Remember - you are not marking any more beans! Record the numbers on the data table.
  8. The total population of bluegills in the lake can be estimated mathematically using the following formula:
    • population = Total fish tagged X Total fish in trapnet ÷Tagged fish in trapnet

  9. Substitute your data in the formula, and using a calculator, perform a population calculation and record it on your data table.
  10. Return your bluegills to the lake, mix the population as before and then take a second sample. Record the new data on your data table and perform a second population calculation.
  11. Find the average of the two numbers.
  12. Compare your two population calculations with each other and with the initial estimate. Discuss possible reasons for any differences. Then, determine the accuracy of your estimate and calculations by returning your second sample to the lake and actually counting your fish (beans).
  13. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
    • Which was closest to the actual population, your original estimate or your calculations? Why?
    • What conditions (not present in this activity) in an actual lake might affect the bluegill population?
  14. Add the Following Term to your Science Notebook:
    • Mark and Recapture

Fish Sampling Data Table
Fish Survey Data Table.png

Web 2.0 scientific calculator

How Many Grasshoppers? - Population Sampling
Use the directions below to do a sampling activity using beans to represent the number of grasshoppers in a field.

  • 1 piece of printer paper
  • 1 pen or pencil
  • 1 ruler
  • 1 handful (aprox. 5 mL) of beans
    *Each bean represents one grasshopper in the field.
  • 1 calculator

Time needed:
20 minutes

  1. Read all procedures and copy the data table below (Population Sampling Chart.)
  2. Using the pen or pencil and ruler, divide the printer paper into four columns across and five rows down so that you have 20 equal squares on the paper.
  3. Scatter the grasshoppers (beans) as evenly as possible over the entire paper. Make sure some beans get in each box on the page.
  4. Randomly choose one square on the page. Count the number of beans in one square and record below.
  5. Count the number of beans in a second (different) square and record it on the chart.
  6. Count the number of beans in a third square and record.
  7. Find the mean (average) number of beans for the three squares. (Find the total for your three squares and divide the total by three.)
  8. Multiply the mean (average) you got by the number of squares on the paper (20). This will give you an estimate of the number of beans on the whole paper.
  9. Count the actual number of beans on the page.

Population Sampling Chart
grasshopper graph.jpg

Describe a situation (besides counting grasshoppers) where an ecologist would want to use sampling to estimate population. Why would they want to use sampling?Answer the following Questions
  1. Describe a situation where an ecologist may not want to use sampling to estimate population. When would they not want to use sampling?

Include the following terms in your Ecology notes
  • direct observation
  • indirect observation
  • sampling
  • mark and recapture

Magnifier guy_1_1.jpg
Estimating Populations - Field Experience
In this activity you will be responsible for choosing the best method of estimating a population of loblolly pines behind Colonel Richardson Middle School.
  1. Begin by reading this information about the Loblolly pine.
  2. Next, go observe a loblolly pine in its natural habitat.
  3. Decide on the best way to estimate the population of loblollys in the woods. Fill out this form with your plan.

food chain_1.png
Food Chains
Try the Food Chain Game at this website: Food Chain - Kid's Corner

Food Web_1.png
Food Webs
Follow the next three steps to learn about food webs.
  1. Read this article about food chains and food webs.
  2. Try this Food Web Game which helps teach about how organisms sometimes compete for the same resources.
  3. Click here to answer the Food Web questions.
  4. Include the following term in your Ecology Notes
    • niche

The Wolves of Yellowstone

Interacting Populations

Different species in a community can have a great affect on each other. In this activity you will find a graph that charts the birth rate and death rate of two populations that live on a small island.
  1. Complete the Interacting Populations Activity. Use the graph to answer the 5 questions.
  2. Read this article about the Aleutian Islands, Alaska
  3. Add the following terms to your two-column notes on Ecology*:
  • limiting factor
  • carrying capacity
    • * be sure to include definitions, facts, and examples!

Here is a technical passage about algae blooms:

Ecology Writing Prompt

Populations of organisms can increase and decrease over time depending on certain conditions in the environment. Name and describe an example of a change in population of an organism.
In your answer be sure to
  • Name an organism
  • Describe factors that could cause its population to increase or decrease.

Download the BCR prompt about ecology -

Homework Worksheet
Studying Populations Review - This worksheet includes key ecology vocabulary as well as the science and math skills of interpreting graphs and estimating.

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Owl Pellet Investigation

To wrap up the Ecology Unit we will be investigating part of the food web that involves the barn owl and its prey.
  1. After your teacher gives your group an owl pellet, carefully unwrap it from the aluminum foil and observe it. Are there any bones sticking out or other features that may indicate what organism may be inside?
  2. Use the triple-beam balance to find the mass of your owl pellet. Record this in your notebook.
  3. Now, pull the owl pellet apart and start separating the fur from the bones. Place the bones in separate piles and begin trying to identify them. Use this chart to help sort your bones.
  4. When you feel as if you have identified as many as you can, go to the following site and input the data: Owl Pellet Interactive Study. Input the mass of your owl pellet in the additional observations section - #11.
  5. After completing the dissection, go to this site to answer a few questions.

Design and Build...

A Bay Monitoring Buoy
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  1. Check out the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System Website:
  2. Click on About the Buoy Technology and explore the various parts of a Monitoring Buoy.
  3. Using the available resources, design and build your own buoy. Your buoy must:
    • float
    • hold as many golf balls as possible
    • be at least 20cm tall
    • be made of only the supplied materials

Here's an article about the scientist that led the program to place 10 buoys in Chesapeake Bay.

Ecology Notes

Key words
Definitions, facts, examples
  • a group of organisms of the same species that live in a certain area
Birth Rate
  • the number of births in a population over a certain amount of time
  • when babies are born, the population increases
Death Rate
  • the number of deaths in a population over a certain amount of time
  • when organisms die the population decreases
  • moving into a population
  • causes the population to increase
  • moving out of a population
  • causes the population to decrease
  • the place where an organism lives
  • ex - the oyster's habitat is aquatic
Direct observation
  • Count all organisms
  • Most obvious way
  • Not always practical
  • ex. - counting deer in a field
Indirect observation
  • Look for signs of organisms
  • make an estimate
  • Ex – count numbers of nests of organisms
  • Count number of organisms in small area and multiply times total area
  • Estimate
  • Sample area should be most typical area where organisms are most likely to be found
  • Ex. - counting trees in a small area then multiplying by total acreage
Mark and recapture
  • Organisms are marked or tagged and released
  • Later, organisms are captured again and checked for marks
  • Scientists use mathematical formula to determine size
  • Ex – fish tagging in Ches. Bay
Carrying Capacity
  • the ability of an area to support the largest population of organisms
  • ex - only a certain number of deer can live in an area before resources run out
  • an organism's role or job in its environment
  • ex - a plant is a producer
  • living factors in an environment
  • ex - trees are a living part of the environment
  • non-living factors in an environment
  • ex - water is non-living
Limiting Factors
  • factors in an environment which limit the growth of a population
  • ex - food, water, space, predators

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Ecology Flashcards! - Online flashcards and games
Do you have an iPhone or iPod Touch? Use the Touchcards app to study your Quizlet flash-cards. For the Ecology unit use the code - 2757131 to access the virtual cards.

Find Someone Who . . .
Download the Find Some Who . . . worksheet for Ecology -

Unit Review Slideshow

Ecology Quiz

Take the Ecology Quiz to show your knowledge!