In this lab, students will work with a simple algae/brine shrimp environment to learn about food chains and population dynamics. It was implemented with limited alteration for an Introductory Ecology course.
Adapted from: Food Chain Dynamics In A Simple Ecosystem v 1.0
Demonstrating predator-prey dynamics rarely fit the timeline of a lecture course or the scope of student experiences. This lab explores food chain dynamics in a microcosm of a simplified ecosystem with a primary producer and a grazer. It can be accomplished in two class sessions (one for experimental setup and the other for data collection). The primary producer is a marine algae and the grazer is brine shrimp (Artemia sp.), both of which are accessible and have low risk in culturing and maintenance. For the ecological context of predator-prey dynamics, the population densities are compared after a 2-week incubation of student designed experiment. Additionally, the concepts of 'bottom-up' or 'top-down' influences on an ecosystem can be taught and discussed in a broader context of ecosystem ecology.
In this experiment, you will use an experimental design developed by Hudon and Finnerty (2013), but in a “flipped” format. You should first view the assigned videos that describe the fundamental features of the experimental procedure.
Hudon, D. and J.R. Finnerty. 2013. To build an ecosystem: an introductory lab for environmental science and biology students. The American Biology Teacher 75:186-192.
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There are minimal changes to the core of the lab. Notes include comments about using an alternative algae, diatoms, and hatching the eggs. Preparation of cultures should begin two weeks before the schedule start with the students.