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Teaching Exponential and Logistic Growth in a Variety of Classroom and Laboratory Settings

Ecology and conservation biology contain numerous examples of
populations growing without bounds or shrinking towards extinction. For these
populations, the change in the number of individuals generally follows an
exponential curve. On the other hand, limited resources may keep population
numbers in check and help maintain the population at the environment's carrying
capacity. These density-dependent constraints on population growth can be
described by the logistic growth equation. The logistic growth equation provides a
clear extension of the density-independent process described by exponential
growth. In general, exponential growth and decline along with logistic growth can
be conceptually challenging for students when presented in a traditional lecture
setting. Establishing a solid understanding of exponential and logistic growth,
core concepts in population and community ecology, provides a foundation on
which students can build on in future studies. The module described here,
employed in either a laboratory or classroom setting is designed to actively
engage students in building their understanding of exponential and logistic
processes. The module includes components that address a variety of learning
styles (visual and tactile, for example). The module consists of pre-module
assessments of students’ prior knowledge, three short “chalk talks” on
exponential and logistic growth, the activities, and post-module assessments.
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Primary or BEN resource type
Secondary resource type
General Biology Core Concepts
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords exponential growth, exponential decay,data collection, graphingbackground knowledge, cooperative
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Description This module can be used at any institution of higher learning. All the materials
required are inexpensive and can be found at a local grocery or craft store.
Additionally, this exercise can be adapted for different levels of students. For
students with weaker math backgrounds, the graphs allow them to define r
visually. Students with stronger math backgrounds can further examine
exponential and logistic growth by using the equations. Finally, topics can be
extended, depending on the depth of the course, to introduce additional concepts
such as the effects of environmental stochasticity on populations growing in a
density-independent (i.e., exponential) or density-dependent (i.e., logistic)
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Primary Author email
Secondary Author Name(s) Carol Wicks
Secondary Author Affiliation(s) Department of Geology & Geophysics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Submitter Email
Rights Rights belong to the Authors.
Date Of Record Submission 2014-06-02

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