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"Connecting Concepts: Ecology/Population Dynamics" icon

Connecting Concepts: Ecology/Population Dynamics

This simulation/tutorial consists of three topics. In topic 1, students conduct a study of a zebra mussel population in a fictitious lake and present their findings during a virtual teleconference. Students will: 1) review qualitative descriptions of growth curves for the exponential and logistic models, selecting one to test at the lake; 2) collect and plot data, and determine which of the models the data fits; 3) answer questions about populations at other localities by calculating rmax, t, and N using their data. In topic 2, students review the math and biology behind the logistic growth model with the help of a fish population. Students will: 1) complete interactive explorations of density-dependence and carrying capacity, the difference between r (realized intrinsic rate of increase or per capita, growth rate), rmax, (maximum intrinsic rate of increase and dN/dt (population growth rate), how growth rate changes over time while r decreases; and 2) summarize and compare properties of exponential and logistic growth. In topic 3, students follow the growth of the Kruger National Park elephant population from 1903-1996. While following the history of the population, students calculate values using the logistic equation. Students will complete a case study in which they: 1) learn the biological and sociopolitical history of the KNP elephants; 2) calculate dN/dt, N, and 1-(N/K) over time; 3) explain how assumptions of logistic growth affect the shape of the curve; and 4) evaluate how well the KNP population fits the logistic model.


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Marty Zahn
Marty Zahn (Retired Faculty)
7 years ago

An outstanding interactive exercise for students learn about population dynamics. Well written and requires students to figure out the answers. If incorrect answer, takes them back to the basic material. Very well done.

Technical Remarks:

Requires Shockwave

Time spent reviewing site: 1/2 hour