Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. John Lubbock

Topics

Examples of topics and practicals that may be covered on a Day Visit or Biology Senior Studies 1-3 night camp:

  • recognise that biodiversity includes the diversity of species and ecosystems
  • determine diversity of species using measures such as species richness, evenness (relative species abundance), percentage cover, percentage frequency and Simpson’s diversity index
  • use species diversity indices, species interactions (predation, competition, symbiosis, disease) and abiotic factors (climate, substrate, size/depth of area) to compare ecosystems across spatial and temporal scales
  • explain how environmental factors limit the distribution and abundance of species in an ecosystem

Classification Processes

  • understand that ecosystems are composed of varied habitats (microhabitat to ecoregion)
  • interpret data to classify and name an ecosystem
  • explain how the process of classifying ecosystems is an important step towards effective ecosystem management (consider old-growth forests, productive soils and coral reefs)
  • describe the process of stratified sampling in terms of purpose (estimating population, density, distribution, environmental gradients and profiles, zonation, stratification) site selection choice of ecological surveying technique (quadrats, transects)
  • minimising bias (size and number of samples, random-number generators, counting criteria, calibrating equipment and noting associated precision) methods of data presentation and analysis

Functioning Ecosystems

  • define ecological niche in terms of habitat, feeding relationships and interactions with other species
  • understand the competitive exclusion principle
  • analyse data to identify species (including microorganisms) or populations occupying an ecological niche
  • define keystone species and understand the critical role they play in maintaining the structure of a community
  • analyse data (from an Australian ecosystem) to identify a keystone species and predict the outcomes of removing the species from an ecosystem

Changing Ecosystems

  • explain the concept of ecological succession (refer to pioneer and climax communities and seres)
  • differentiate between the two main modes of succession: primary and secondary
  • identify the features of pioneer species (ability to fixate nitrogen, tolerance to extreme conditions, rapid germination of seeds, ability to photosynthesise) that make them effective colonisers
  • analyse data from the fossil record to observe past ecosystems and changes in biotic and abiotic components
  • analyse ecological data to predict temporal and spatial successional changes
  • predict the impact of human activity on the reduction of biodiversity and on the magnitude, duration and speed of ecosystem change

Possible Field Work

Diversity indices and measurements should be supported through fieldwork and based on classification. Measures of biodiversity, i.e. species richness (S) and Simpson’s diversity index (D) should be used where applicable

  • Use appropriate technology, such as data loggers, chemical tests, turbidity tubes and other equipment to measure factors.
  • Measure abiotic factors in the classroom using field samples (e.g. pH, nitrogen nutrients, salinity, carbonates, turbidity).
  • Measure abiotic factors in the field (e.g. dissolved oxygen, light, temperature, wind speed, infiltration rate).
  • Classification should be supported by the analysis of field data.
  • Use the process of stratified sampling to collect and analyse primary biotic and abiotic field data to classify an ecosystem.
  • Determine species diversity of a group of organisms based on a given index.
  • Study the abundance of each trophic level in a simple food chain.
  • Measure the wet biomass of producer samples.
  • Test the competitive exclusion principle hypothesis by studying vertical zonation on a tree.
  • Carry out a longitudinal study of a keystone species and relevant ecological interactions.
  • Conduct an abundance and distribution study, including biotic and biotic factors.
  • Select and appraise an ecological surveying technique
  • Analyse species diversity between two spatially variant ecosystems of the same classification (e.g. a disturbed and undisturbed Sand dune or Rocky Shore or Mangrove eco system).