Analyzing Patterns in the Savanna Landscape
This video showcases the work of mathematician-turned-biologist Corina Tarnita, who uses quantitative approaches to understand the role of termite mounds in the savanna ecosystem.
Termite mounds are biological hotspots that concentrate nutrients and water in semiarid savanna ecosystems. When viewed from above, the mounds form a strikingly regular polka-dot pattern. Tarnita uses mathematical modeling to explain the regularity of this pattern, how it arises, and how the mounds enhance the stability of the ecosystem.
The accompanying “Student Worksheet” incorporates concepts and information from the video.
An audio descriptive version of the film is available via our media player.
Student Learning Targets
- Examine research practices.
- Develop scientific explanations and justify claims using evidence.
- Explain what spatial patterns can reveal about ecosystems.
ecosystem resilience, geometry, mathematics, termite mound
Bonachela Juan A., Robert M. Pringle, Efrat Sheffer, Tyler C. Coverdale, Jennifer A. Guyton, Kelly K. Caylor, Simon A. Levin, Corina E. Tarnita, 2015. Ecological feedbacks. Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change. Science 347, 6222 (2015): 651-5. https://doi.org10.1126/science.1261487.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS2.C, HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6; SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-4.A, ENE-4.B, SYI-1.H; SP2, SP4, SP6
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2013)
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
2.2, 3.4, 7.2
Common Core (2010)
Math.N-Q.1, Math.S-ID.1, Math.S-ID.2; MP2, MP3, MP4, MP7
Vision and Change (2009)