Students should be able to:
Define the term ecology.
Define, identify and describe the biotic and abiotic components
of an ecosystem.
Be able to sample and analyze data collected from a terrestrial
and/or aquatic ecosystem.
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.
Pre-Lab Activity #1 - Biomes
Using resources available to you find information on the
List the major biomes of the world.
Describe what determines each of the biomes.
What dominant plants and animals are found in each.
Pre-Lab Activity #2 - Materials for your Ecosystem Study
Pre-Lab Questions (html
Pre-Lab Questions (Word version)
The Laboratory Activities and Data Collection
Lab Activity #1 - Abiotic Data Collection
|Meter sticks (2) or hula hoop|
|GPS Unit - provided by the instructor|
|Sling psychrometer and conversion chart|
|Topographical map of the area - From Terraserver-USA|
|Aerial map of the area - From Terraserver-USA|
Choose at random your two sampling plots in the
Observe and describe the general area where your sampling
plots are located, and indicate this on your Data Collection Sheet.
Use the GPS provided, determine the latitude and
longitude of your sample plots. Record the data on your Data Collection Sheet.
- Measure the abiotic
factors using your equipment and the procedures below:
- Measure the air
temperature at 2 m, 1 m, 0.5 m and 0.1 m above your sample plots.
- Measure the
humidity (sling psychrometer) at 2 m, 1 m, and 0.5 m above your sample
- Measure the wind
velocity and direction at 2 m, 1 m, 0.5 m and 0.1 m above your sample plots.
- Measure the pH of
the soil by wetting it with distilled water, and using hydrion paper,
determine the pH.
- Make sure you have
recorded all of your data on the Data Collection Sheet.
Lab Activity #2 - Biotic Data Collection
|Plastic bags (6)|
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.
Now collect the living plant material from the 3 subplots, and
place it in 3 separate plastic bags. Label them as state above.
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.
Lab Activity #3 - Data Analysis
Identification Keys for Plants and Animals
Data Analysis Sheet
Using the plant keys provided, identify the plants
collected from your sample plots. Record your data on the Data Analysis Sheet.
Determine the wet biomass of the plant material you
collected from your sample plots, and record the data on your Data Analysis
Place the material in the trays provided, label them with
your lab group number, and place them in the drying oven.
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.
Post-lab Activities and Data Analysis
Results and Analysis
Attach all of your Data Collection Sheets to the
Post-Lab Questions (html version)
Post-Lab Questions (Word version)