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Exploring the population dynamics of wintering bald eagles through long-term data

Author(s): John Doudna1, Julie Beckstead2, Alexandra Lagasse2, Scott Robinson3

1. Lansing Community College 2. Gonzaga University 3. Wildlife Biologist, Retired, Bureau of Land Management Coeur d'Alene Field Office Coeur d'Alene

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Exploring long-term population data through graphical and statistical means Practice module included in Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE) Volume 7

Licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0.0 - published on 24 Apr 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4R39M - cite this

Adapted from: Exploring the population dynamics of wintering bald eagles through long-term data v 1.0


This activity was completed during a 2.5 hour session of Biology 101 (non-majors biological science) at an open-enrollment community college.

I used a closely regulated, guided approach to cover this topic. Students had never used Excel in this class, and had limited experience developing scientific studies. Thus, I chose to create documents (an Excel file, worksheet, and PowerPoint presentation) that coordinated with each other. I also used the HHMI Excel tutorial to help introduce students to the basic structures and functions of Excel spreadhseets. This exercise is hyperlinked in the student worksheet. Students were able to follow a prescribed pathway to completion of the activity. A main goal of this activity was to get students to generate graphs and explore patterns in the graphical data. For students who were able to finish the graphing portion of the lab, this exercise was concluded with a linear regression analysis to test for significance of the patterns they thought they saw in the data.

The original activity was designed to explore how a bald eagle population changed over time at a winter migratory stopover and which factors influenced its abundance?

This activity has two different aspects to the learning style:

  • Guided Approach: Students will generate questions abut bald eagle numbers influenced by weather and food availability.  Students will then use graphing software (JMP of Excel) to compile the data in a graphical form to answer their questions.
  • Open-Ended Approach: Students will generate their own hypothesis of interest from the larger bald eagle data set.  This approach is encouraged for upper division ecology students in conservation biology, wildlife management, or population ecology classes.

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