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MathBench: Biodiversity Assessment of Stream Biota

Author(s): Rebekah Chapman

Georgia State University

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Summary:
The MathBench module, "The Case of the Missing Mountaintop" introduces students to the concept of biodiversity and measures used to quantify biodiversity and stream health. Students investigate the impacts of mountaintop removal mining processes on…

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The MathBench module, "The Case of the Missing Mountaintop" introduces students to the concept of biodiversity and measures used to quantify biodiversity and stream health. Students investigate the impacts of mountaintop removal mining processes on stream

Description

Module: The Case of the Missing Mountaintop

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand how organisms interact with their environment and each other. 
  2. Interpret data and demonstrate the ability to draw appropriate conclusions.
  3. Use scientific reasoning to interpret information and draw conclusions.
  4. Think and write critically about ecological processes
  5. Demonstrate quantitative ecological skills

 

Benefits of this module:

This mathbench module exposes students to biodiversity and human impacts on biodiversity while reinforcing key concepts of species richness, diversity, and dominance. Students practice determining the richness and calculating Simpson’s diversity index in the context of assessing habitats impacted by mining activities. Students relate these measures to habitat quality when finding and evaluating % EPT in a pristine and impacted stream.

Implementation:

I assigned this module as a homework activity with a worksheet that ensured student engagement in the activity as they worked through the module. This could also be done in class or lab as long as students have access to computers.

Assessment:

Pre- and post-activity quizzes were given in class. The worksheets students did as homework were collected and reviewed and were used as a basis for class discussion of the activity.

Student perceptions:

Students were very engaged with this module and enjoyed this presentation of the material and the opportunity to practice using the community measurements. This was listed by most students as one of the top activities for enhancing their mastery of material in class.

Implementation Advice:

Consider having a follow-up set of data that they have to analyze, so they aren’t just entering the answers from mathbench without gaining the practice. The data can be used to reinforce other measures of community/diversity as well. I have them calculate the Shannon index for the data as well as Sorenson’s coefficient and Percent Similarity. I would incorporate reading the article on the effects of mountaintop mining (Palmer et al., 2010, Mountaintop Mining Consequences, in Science 327: 148-149) for environmental context.

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