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1 March 2013 To Build an Ecosystem: An Introductory Lab for Environmental Science & Biology Students
Daniel Hudon, John R. Finnerty
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A hypothesis-driven laboratory is described that introduces students to the complexities of ecosystem function. Students work with live algae, brine shrimp, and sea anemones to test hypotheses regarding the trophic interactions among species, the exchange of nutrients and gases, and the optimal ratio of producers to consumers and predators in enclosed, artificial-seawater ecosystems. In the initial iteration of the activity, multiple ecosystems that differ in their composition of organisms are assembled according to simple recipes by individual students or small lab groups. Two weeks later, the ecosystems are deconstructed, and the students tally the organisms and assess key water-quality measures, including salinity, pH, and ammonia levels. Some sample data and results are presented, as well as tips for successful implementation.

©2013 by National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights reserved. Request permission to photocopy or reproduce article content at the University of California Press's Rights and Permissions Web site at
Daniel Hudon and John R. Finnerty "To Build an Ecosystem: An Introductory Lab for Environmental Science & Biology Students," The American Biology Teacher 75(3), 186-192, (1 March 2013).
Published: 1 March 2013

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Ecosystem laboratory
food webs
hypothesis testing
metabolic pathways
quantitative reasoning
scientific method
statistical analysis
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