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Ecology of Habitat Contrasts: An Example from the Holyoke Range, MA

This Experiment introduces students to a local ecosystem and what ecologists do: observe and describe patterns in organisms and then attempt to explain why those patterns exist. In the example used by the author, students examine tree communities found on the north and south slopes of a local mountain (in the Holyoke Range, near Amherst, MA). Student-generated questions include: Are the tree species different on the two slopes? Are there density and size differences? Are these differences due to climate and adaptation to cold and drought? Are there other important factors that help us understand the types and sizes of trees that we find there? Students collect data in groups to answer their questions.
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Resource Group Link
Primary or BEN resource type
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords Holyoke,mountain,ecosystem,pattern,data collection,hypothesis,observation,TIEE,pedagogy,student active,inquiry based
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Description This Experiment gives students an opportunity to think like ecologists, make observations, ask questions, and collect, manage, and analyze data to address those questions. In the example used by the author, students collect data such as tree size and species, temperature, and light to make a comparison between different conditions. She suggests that instructors in other areas could use the same framework in their own local ecosystems to compare patterns such as high or low abundance of animals, or whether a site has many of the same type of plants. Mechanisms to explain these patterns might concern the amount of rainfall in a year or heavy grazing by some herbivore.
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Hampshire College, School of Natural Sciences
Primary Author email
Rights Copyright 2004 by Charlene D'Avanzo and the Ecological Society of America.
Date Of Record Submission 2007-11-05

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