Ecology and Systems Biology: Unit Exam Review

Today we reviewed for the unit exam.  We began by connecting the learning from yesterday’s presentation of biospheres with the concepts of unintended consequences and non-native species.  As we look ahead to the biology end of course exam, students will have many opportunities to stretch their thinking in ways that will enable them to be successful on the EOC.  The concept of unintended consequences is part of the EOC and was previously introduced on a reading about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.  Today, students were asked to consider the unintended consequences of introducing non-native species into an ecosystem, and we followed that up with a short video.  The video (below) features images about the wolves and other organisms in Yellowstone, with George Monbiot narrating.  The narration is actually a segment from a longer TED talk by Mr. Monbiot.

After the video, students spent the remainder of the class period studying hard for the Unit 2 exam tomorrow.  The slide deck of study questions is attached.  Students were reminded that they are permitted to use their lab notebooks and work folders on the exam.  Cell phones, talking with other students, and cheating are not permitted and will result in a score of zero.  Students will be seated per the PSAT seating guidelines, with backpacks against the front wall and students seated as they enter.  I reserve the right to arrange seating as required to ensure all students have the opportunity to express their own thinking on the exam without disruption.

Ecology and Systems Biology: Biospheres

Yesterday, Nick from King County Solid Waste joined us as a guest speaker.  Nick brought biospheres, fully-enclosed glass spheres filled with water (and a little air).  In the water were tiny shrimp, bacteria, algae, rocks, coral, and the occasional shell.  Nick explained that the organisms in the biosphere have been alive for a few years now, and the biotic and abiotic factors present within the sphere, along with sunlight, are all the factors needed to keep the organisms thriving.  He explained how matter circulates within the biosphere, and then asked students to contrast a biosphere with our planet.  Students then participated in a sorting activity where they learned which items can be reused, recycled, composted, thrown away, or perhaps should not be purchased in the first place.  The biospheres provided an excellent way to visualize the concept that the amount of matter in an ecosystem does not change, although the form that matter takes does change.

Biospheres, or ecospheres, are available for purchase, including online through