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Conservation Biology

Many of our labs and chapters use applied storylines that fit well into conservation biology courses. With labs featuring endangered species such as the Fender's Blue Butterfly in Patchy Prairies and the Black-footed Ferret in Genetic Drift and Bottlenecked Ferrets, to foundational topics in conservation such as Population Growth and Climate Change, hundreds of conservation classes have found SimBio's modules useful for allowing students to practice the skills they need to address real-world issues.

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Conservation Biology Modules

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Chapter: Population Growth
Explores geometric, exponential and logistic growth, density-dependent vs. independent controls, and more advanced topics in population growth. Simulated agricultural systems form the basis for problem-solving throughout the chapter.
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Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Density Dependence vs. Independence | Doubling Time | Exponential Growth | Geometric Growth | Logistic Growth
Courses: Ecology | Environmental Science | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics
Chapter: Life History
Fundamental life history trade-offs set the stage for students to explore demography and life tables. Simulated experiments include several interesting model organisms, including humans.
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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Demographics and Age Structure | Growth Rates | Life Cycles | Life History Trade-offs | Life Table Parameters
Courses: Conservation Biology | Ecology
Chapter: Climate Change
Builds an understanding of the scientific evidence that climate is changing and elucidates the physics underlying global temperatures, the evidence on the impact of humans on the climate, and how changing temperatures may affect ecological systems.
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Level: Sophomore/Junior, Advanced
Key Concepts: Attribution of Climate Change | Basic Climatology | Climate Models | Detecting Trends | Ecological Effects of Climate Change | Evidence of Climate Change
Courses: Ecology | Environmental Science
Chapter: Biogeography

Covers large-scale and global patterns of biodiversity, and how these are related to landscapes. Includes coverage of air and water circulation, biomes, measures of diversity, species-area curves and island biogeography, paleoecology and geologic-time impacts on diversity. Topics are discussed in the context of how they inform conservation biology.

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Level: Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Biomes | Dispersal | Historical Biogeography | Island Biogeography | species diversity measures | species-area curves
Courses: Ecology
Lab (Tutorial): Isle Royale
This very popular lab has been revised to include onscreen instructions, feedback for students, and a new graphing exercise. The lab explores important population biology concepts, including exponential and logistic growth and carrying capacity, using the classic predator-prey system of moose and wolves on an island in Lake Superior. An unexpected twist at the end creates a great topic for discussion.
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: undefined
Courses: Applied Ecology | Community Ecology | Conservation Biology | Ecology | Ecosystems | Environmental Science | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Population Biology
Lab (Workbook): Isle Royale Demo video available
This popular laboratory explores basic population biology concepts including exponential and logistic growth and carrying capacity. It is based on the textbook example of a predator-prey system involving wolves and moose on an island in Lake Superior. Students start out by characterizing the growth of a colonizing population of moose in the absence of predators. Next they introduce wolves, and study the resulting predator-prey cycles. Do predators increase or decrease the health of their prey populations? Students investigate this question by sampling the energy stores of moose with and without wolves present. Finally, they try changing the plant growth rate to see how primary productivity influences population dynamics.
View Sample Screen
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Carrying Capacity | Population growth | Predator-prey Dynamics
Courses: Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Population Biology
"We plan to continue to use EcoBeaker software in our Biology 101 labs next year. Student and TA feedback was very positive on both these labs [Isle Royale and Nutrient Pollution]."
Bruce Fall, University of Minnesota, 1,000 Student Introductory Biology Course
"Our experience with [the Isle Royale and Darwinian Snails labs] last Spring in our majors introductory course was excellent."
Dr. Lawrence Blumer, Morehouse College
"Our intro ecology course did the new Isle Royale lab this week and all of the instructors agreed that the new version is GREAT - so thanks for the great educational tool!!!! We all love how you worked global climate change into the new version and we also love the t-test at the end."
Billy Flint, James Madison University
Lab (Tutorial): Understanding Population Growth Models
Students experiment with simulations of engaging creatures whose populations are undergoing exponential and logistic growth. Through guided exploration, students discover what is meant by N, r, K, and dN/dt in population growth models, and apply the models to make predictions. This module was developed as a pre-lab for Isle Royale or a supplement for courses that cover intro-level population biology.
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Carrying Capacity | Exponential Growth | Logistic Growth | population growth models | Populations
Courses: Applied Ecology | Community Ecology | Conservation Biology | Ecology | Ecosystems | Environmental Science | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors
Lab (Workbook): Patchy Prairies (formerly Butterflies)
Using a simulation of a population of Fender's blue butterfly, an endangered species that is endemic to western Oregon (USA) prairies, students are challenged to propose and justify (based on their own data) a habitat restoration scheme that will maximize survivorship of butterflies, given pre-existing patches of prairie. Students first learn about edge effects and how landscape features such as corridors and stepping stones might affect population survival. They then explore how using models (e.g., conducting sensitivity analyses) can help guide research. Improvements to this lab were suggested by users of previous versions, which have been very popular both with instructors and students.
View sample screen
Level: Intro or Advanced
Key Concepts: Habitat Restoration | Metapopulations | Patchiness | Reserve design
Courses: Applied Ecology | Conservation Biology | Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Population Biology
"It was easy to modify the final assignment to make it either more or less intensive as desired."
Cindy Bennington, Stetson University
"The students seemed to appreciate the realism of the simulation. It substituted well for a live lab without the students necessarily missing not going on into the field."
Bryan Dewsbury, Florida International University
"The class discussion [about Patchy Prairies] this morning was successful. Students ... thought it was easy to learn, and took away the major points I hoped they would."
Laura Jackson, University of Northern Iowa
Lab (Workbook): Genetic Drift and Bottlenecked Ferrets

This lab explores how random genetic drift impacts populations, using a conservation-oriented story about rescuing black-footed ferrets from extinction. Students observe the rate of genetic drift in populations of different sizes and conduct experiments to investigate how and why population size affects changes in genetic diversity across generations. Students become familiar with the meanings of heterozygosity and effective population size (Ne) in the course of their experimentation. The lab culminates with students applying these ideas to black-footed ferrets, a species that experienced a population bottleneck and is currently being managed both for population size and genetic diversity.

View Sample Screen

Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Conservation Genetics | Effective Population Size | Heterozygosity | population bottleneck | random genetic drift
Courses: Conservation Biology | Evolution | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors

It was easy to follow and actually kind of fun.

The simulations were easy to follow and fun

It was easy to understand and it allowed me to remain involved and interested.

I liked that it gave me an opportunity to design my own experiment.

The visuals made the concepts easy to follow and I liked running my own experiment at the end.

A fun interactive way to learn about genetic drift


Anonymous Students
Lab (Workbook): Keystone Predator Demo video available
This laboratory recreates the famous experiments of Paine and colleagues in the Pacific Northwest with the sea star Pisaster (and 8 other marine intertidal species). Students do transplant experiments to figure out competitive relationships and sample gut contents to construct a food web. Next they use their data to predict what will happen when each predator is removed from the system. Finally, they do the removal experiments and compare their results with their predictions. This is a great introductory lab in that it explores basic ecological concepts and although it is not difficult, it asks students to think critically, synthesizing experimental data to make predictions. It also provides a nice foundation for discussions of the important roles that different species can play in a community.
View sample screen
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Competition | Ecological Communities | Food Webs | Keystone Species
Courses: Community Ecology | Conservation Biology | Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Marine Biology
"I had great success using your EcoBeaker™ labs, Keystone Predator and Sickle-Cell Alleles, in my BIO102 General Biology II class (4 lab sections, 96 students) this spring semester. "
Dr. Daniel Vogt, Plattsburgh State University, General Biology
"They absolutely loved [Keystone Predator]. … [it] allowed them to quickly appreciate how the biology of the organisms played a role, that the species differed in colonizing abilities, and the concept of a species with an effect disproportionate to its abundance. I was amazed how quickly and effortlessly the simulation taught them a dynamic system. We all agreed that the graphics really work. One of the best features is the integrated abundance values so that you can freeze the action at any point and track individual species as opposed to general trends. "
Paula Philbrick, University of Connecticut
Lab (Workbook): Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis
Using a model of succession from grasses to trees, students start out by observing a successional sequence without disturbance. Then they get to start setting fires. By systematically varying the size and frequency of fires, they recreate the standard textbook graph of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis showing that species diversity is highest at intermediate levels of disturbance. In an open-ended advanced section of the lab, students can alter the susceptibility of different species to burning and their succession rate to see how these factors influence diversity. This lab is often cited as a favorite by both instructors and students for its content, and also for the graphics that display red fire rushing through the forest. Although the ideas are typically introduced in upper-level ecology courses, the lab is straightforward and emphasizes data collection and graphing, making it applicable for courses for students without a scientific background.
View sample screen
Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Disturbance | Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis | Scientific modeling | Succession
Courses: Community Ecology | Ecology | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Non-majors


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