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Processes that Regulate Patterns of Species and Genetic Diversity

During a single lab period, students simulate colonization and drift in artificial communities to understand how these processes affect distributions of biodiversity in small versus large communities with varying degrees of isolation. Plastic bins represent islands, and are situated to represent different degrees of isolation. Ziploc bags of candy represent individuals in the communities and different candies inside the bags represent the genetic composition of the individuals. Students simulate colonization and drift in communities by tossing, replicating, and removing individuals from their communities. Students record which individuals and candies are removed from and added to their communities over time, graph their data, and discuss results. TIEE
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Primary or BEN resource type
General Biology Core Concepts
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords Biodiversity, Colonization, Ecological drift, Evolution, Extinction, Genetic diversity, Genetic drift, Island biogeography, Species diversity
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Description This activity is supposed to represent a model of community and population dynamics with equal colonization and extinction rates among ponds, random dispersal/gene flow among islands, and no selection in favor of or against specific species or alleles. One of the benefits of conducting a simulation activity in class is the heuristic opportunity for students when activity results do not follow expectations.

The intent of this activity was to demonstrate that area and/or isolation may be determinants of richness, however the relationship between diversity and these variables may not be as expected; other factors besides area and/isolation may affect distributions of richness.

This activity was developed for an undergraduate upper level course for natural resources majors. Classes of 20 – 30 students work best for the activity. However it may be conducted with as few as ten students or as many as 40 students. For larger classes, two sets of islands could be created, or additional islands could be added to the layout.
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, The University of Georgia
Primary Author email
Secondary Author Name(s) Gary T. Green and John C. Maerz
Secondary Author Affiliation(s) Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, The University of Georgia. Current
Submitter Name Teresa Mourad
Submitter Email
Rights Authors hold copyright
Date Of Record Submission 2015-01-21

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