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Objectives

Students should be able to:

  1. Define the term ecology.

  2. Define, identify and describe the biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem.

  3. Be able to sample and analyze data collected from a terrestrial and/or aquatic ecosystem.

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Introduction

The study of ecology is of great importance in the field of biology. It examines the interaction between the abiotic and biotic components. The abiotic components are environmental factors such as light, wind, rainfall, temperature, pH, etc. The biotic component is the community of living organisms. It consists of producers (photosynthetic autotrophs), consumers (heterotrophic organisms herbivores, carnivores and omnivores), and decomposers (detritivores).

In this lab exercise you will be visiting a terrestrial ecosystem near the college. You will be gathering data using a representative portion (plot) of the ecosystem. The data that you collect will be both abiotic and biotic. You will choose at random, two sampling plots of about 1 m2 each and collect as much data as time allows. The lab is divided into three parts. In Part 1 (Lab Activity #1) you will collect abiotic data. In Part 2 (Lab Activity #2) you will collect biotic data. In Part 3 (Lab Activity #3) you will analyze the data collected.

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Pre-lab Activities

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Pre-Lab Activity #1 - Biomes

Using resources available to you find information on the following:

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List the major biomes of the world.

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Describe what determines each of the biomes.

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What dominant plants and animals are found in each.

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Pre-Lab Activity #2 - Materials for your Ecosystem Study

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Data Collection Sheet - Abiotic - Download and print out

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Data Analysis Sheet - Download and print out

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Go to the Terraserver - USA website and locate and print the maps as indicated below:
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Topographical Map for the area where you will be sampling.

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Aerial Map for the area where you will be sampling.

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Pre-Lab Questions (html version)           Pre-Lab Questions (Word version)

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The Laboratory Activities and Data Collection

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Lab Activity #1 - Abiotic Data Collection

Materials: 

bulletMeter sticks (2) or hula hoop
bulletWind gauge
bulletGPS Unit - provided by the instructor
bulletSling psychrometer and conversion chart
bulletTopographical map of the area - From Terraserver-USA
bulletAerial map of the area - From Terraserver-USA


Procedures:

  1. Choose at random your two sampling plots in the assigned area.

  2. Observe and describe the general area where your sampling plots are located, and indicate this on your Data Collection Sheet.

  3. Use the GPS provided, determine the latitude and longitude of your sample plots. Record the data on your Data Collection Sheet.

  4. Measure the abiotic factors using your equipment and the procedures below:
     
    1. Measure the air temperature at 2 m, 1 m, 0.5 m and 0.1 m above your sample plots.
    2. Measure the humidity (sling psychrometer) at 2 m, 1 m, and 0.5 m above your sample plots.
    3. Measure the wind velocity and direction at 2 m, 1 m, 0.5 m and 0.1 m above your sample plots.
    4. Measure the pH of the soil by wetting it with distilled water, and using hydrion paper, determine the pH.
       
  5. Make sure you have recorded all of your data on the Data Collection Sheet.
     

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Lab Activity #2 - Biotic Data Collection

Materials: 

bulletCollecting nets
bulletCollecting jars
bulletPlastic bags (6)
bulletRake


Procedures:

Plants:

  1. Using your rake, collect the detritus (litter)  from 3, 10 cm2 subplots within each of your 2 sample plots. Place the detritus from subplot 1 in a plastic bag and label it with the sample plot number and subplot number; and your lab group. Repeat with subplot 2 and 3.

  2. Now collect the living plant material from the 3 subplots, and place it in 3 separate plastic bags. Label them as state above.

Animals:

  1. Collect samples of any animal life that appears in your sampling plots (mainly insects and their allies). Place them in the collecting jars and label them with the sample plot number and your lab group.

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Lab Activity #3 - Data Analysis

Materials:

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Balance

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Drying oven

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Dissecting Microscope

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Dissecting Kit

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Identification Keys for Plants and Animals

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Data Analysis Sheet

Procedures:

  1. Using the plant keys provided, identify the plants collected from your sample plots. Record your data on the Data Analysis Sheet.

  2. Determine the wet biomass of the plant material you collected from your sample plots, and record the data on your Data Analysis Sheet.

  3. Place the material in the trays provided, label them with your lab group number, and place them in the drying oven.

  4. Using the animal keys provided, identify the animals collected from your sample plots. Classify them as herbivores, carnivores or detritivores. Record your data on the Data Analysis Sheet.

 

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Post-lab Activities and Data Analysis

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Results and Analysis

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Attach all of your Data Collection Sheets to the Post-Lab Questions.

 

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Post-Lab Questions (html version)         Post-Lab Questions (Word version)

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