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Coyote Habituation and a Scientist Spotlight on Dr. Christopher Schell

Author(s): Darlene Panvini

Belmont University

125 total view(s), 58 download(s)


Dr. Christopher Schell is an ecologist who uses a variety of techniques to study mammalian carnivores in urban areas. This scientist spotlight uses graphs from his study on parental habituation to human disturbance in coyotes.


In this lesson, students read interviews with Dr. Christopher Schell to learn about him and his work as an ecologist. They also learn about his Grit City Carnivore Project and the different techniques that Dr. Schell uses to study mammalian carnivores.  The lesson then focuses on a paper describing a study on parental habituation to human disturbances in coyotes.  Students are introduced to a theoretical model, the experimental design, and then explain two figures from the research paper.  Students compare the results of the study to the theoretical models and conclude by applying concepts from animal behavior and ecology to this activity. The lesson concludes by asking students to reflect on how their perception of "being a scientist" has changed as a result of being introduced to the work of Dr. Schell. A PowerPoint and lesson notes are available. 

Learning objectives for this lesson are:

Quantitative learning objective(s). 

  1. Describe the methods used in the study to assess parental and offspring behavior.
  2. Interpret the graphs presented in the research paper.
  3. Identify dependent and independent variables in the research.
  4. Compare research results to theoretical models.


Content learning objective(s) 

  1. Apply terms or concepts from class to the research.  Students will self-select a term from the units on animal behavior (during the lesson) and ecology (on the exam) to apply to the case study.
  2. Describe the importance of urban carnivore studies (as relates to understanding the relationship between science and society).


Social justice and/or diversity/equity/inclusion learning objective(s) 

  1. Describe characteristics of scientists that include inclusive descriptors.
  2. Identify systemic factors that affect how and by whom science is conducted.



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