Unit 1 Ecological networks
Part 1 Network interactions
This 2 week curriculum module gives middle and high school students an introduction to 1) the concept of systems (aka networks), 2) using software tools to analyze networks, and 3) using both experimentation and networks as a way to define hypotheses and test outcomes. Please see the tabs on this page for more information about the module.
Overview: To foster understanding, students first work with a familiar example - a cell phone network. Students manually build a schematic of a cell phone network within the class and learn how the complexity of networks makes their analysis very difficult to perform by hand. Students then use a computer program (Cytoscape) developed by leading scientists in the field of Biological networks to perform sophisticated analyses of their cell phone network. By using this software, students study the network in ways very analogous to how real scientists study networks in Biology. Following this introduction to networks, students study ecological network concepts such as the transfer of energy and matter (food webs and matter cycles).
Students next examine an environmental case study involving the population growth of Halobacterium, an organism in the domain Archaea, which are descendants of some of the most ancient forms of life on the planet. Students generate hypotheses to explain their observations and proceed to conduct an investigation to test one of their hypotheses. After interpreting their experimental data to draw conclusions, students incorporate the new information into the broader context to gain a systems view of this case study. Connections to several of the major themes in ecology are made throughout the case study.