Teaching Ecology Using Gorongosa National Park

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This playlist can be used to teach several core topics in ecology by connecting students to actual research being conducted in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The topics covered include biomes, food chains and webs, energy flow through trophic levels, human impacts, and conservation biology. 

By completing the resources in this playlist, students will be able to:

  • Interpret graphs and use evidence to make a claim about the ecological differences among biomes.
  • Gather evidence from historical data to make a claim about the effects of human activities on animal populations.
  • Build a food web model, and use the model to explain energy flow through trophic levels and the impacts of disturbances on ecological communities.
  • Make observations to formulate a testable scientific question, and plan and perform data analysis to answer that question using authentic scientific data.

This playlist can be used in general high school biology and environmental science courses. Implementing this playlist should take about five to six 50-minute class periods.

WildCam Gorongosa
Topic
Ecology
Environmental Science
Science Practices
Resource Type
Interactive Media

This citizen science website gives background information about Gorongosa National Park and engages students in authentic science as they identify animals in trail cameras.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students visit the WildCam Gorongosa website, read the “About” page, and watch the first video.
  • Have students click the “Start” page and identify 10 animals.
  • Engage students in a class discussion about how scientists use these data. Questions may include “Why are trail cameras an important tool in science?” or “What kinds of research questions could you ask with these data?”

Estimated Time: Half of a 50-minute class period.

Exploring Biomes in Gorongosa National Park
Topic
Ecology
Science Practices
Resource Type
Activities

In this activity, students interpret climate data from two different biomes in Gorongosa National Park and use an interactive map to explore the vegetation types within each biome. 

To use this resource as part of this playlist, have students complete just questions 1–6 from the ”Student Handout.”

Estimated Time: One 50-minute class period.

Gorongosa Timeline
Topic
Ecology
Environmental Science
Science Practices
Resource Type
Interactive Media

This timeline provides historical information about Gorongosa National Park and how its wildlife populations have changed over time. Students explore how disturbances, like human poaching, can change wildlife populations.

To use this resource as part of this playlist, have students complete just questions 1–3 from the “Environmental Science Worksheet.”

Estimated Time: Half of a 50-minute class period.

Creating Chains and Webs to Model Ecological Relationships
Topic
Ecology
Science Practices
Resource Type
Activities

In this card activity, students create food chains and webs based on organisms in Gorongosa. This activity provides students with an understanding of how some of the organisms interact, which lays a foundation for working with WildCam data at the end of the playlist.

To use this resource as part of this playlist, print classroom sets of cards and have students work in groups of 3–4 to complete the “Student Worksheet.”

Estimated Time: One to two 50-minute class periods.

Tracking Lion Recovery in Gorongosa National Park
Topic
Environmental Science
Resource Type
Videos

This film features the scientist who set up the trail cameras and collected the photos used in WildCam Gorongosa. It provides context for the use of trail cameras in research.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students watch the film as homework.
  • In class, have students work in pairs to complete just questions 1–3 of the “Student Worksheet.”
  • Lead a class discussion or have students form small groups to discuss question 7 of the worksheet.

Estimated Time: Half of a 50-minute class period.

Scientific Inquiry and Data Analysis Using WildCam Gorongosa
Topic
Anatomy & Physiology
Ecology
Science Practices
Resource Type
Activities

In this activity, students use the knowledge they have acquired from the previous resources to formulate an original research question and answer it using the trail camera data.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students work individually or in pairs to complete parts 1–3 and questions 7–11 of part 4 of the “Student Handout.” 
  • Have students present their results in a written report, poster, digital presentation, or other format of choice.
  • Have students work in groups to discuss questions 12–13 of the handout and write a plan for either revising their analysis or formulating a new question.

Estimated Time: Two 50-minute class periods.