Ecology Lesson Plan
Studying Field Ecology in the High School Biology Classroom
Time: One Week Lesson
Objective: Students learn field techniques in order to measure small mammal population
density in a given area.
PERFORMANCE INDICATOR 1.1
1.1a Populations can be categorized by the function they serve. Food webs identify the
Relationships among producers, consumers, and decomposers carrying out either
autotrophic or heterotrophic nutrition.
1.1b An ecosystem is shaped by the nonliving environment as well as its interacting
species. The world contains a wide diversity of physical conditions, which creates a
variety of environments.
1.1c In all environments, organisms compete for vital resources. The linked and changing
interactions of populations and the environment compose the total ecosystem.
1.1d The interdependence of organisms in an established ecosystem often results in
approximate stability over hundreds and thousands of years. For example, as one population
increases, it is held in check by one or more environmental factors or another
1.1e Ecosystems, like many other complex systems, tend to show cyclic changes around
a state of approximate equilibrium.
1.1f Every population is linked, directly or indirectly, with many others in an ecosystem.
Disruptions in the numbers and types of species and environmental changes can
upset ecosystem stability.
PERFORMANCE INDICATOR 6.2
6.2a As a result of evolutionary processes, there is a diversity of organisms and roles in
ecosystems. This diversity of species increases the chance that at least some will survive
in the face of large environmental changes. Biodiversity increases the stability of the
6.2b Biodiversity also ensures the availability of a rich variety of genetic material that
may lead to future agricultural or medical discoveries with significant value to
humankind. As diversity is lost, potential sources of these materials may be lost with it
PERFORMANCE INDICATOR 7.2
7.2a Human activities that degrade ecosystems result in a loss of diversity of the living
and nonliving environment. For example, the influence of humans on other organisms
occurs through land use and pollution. Land use decreases the space and resources
available to other species, and pollution changes the chemical composition of air, soil,
7.2b When humans alter ecosystems either by adding or removing specific organisms,
serious consequences may result. For example, planting large expanses of one crop
reduces the biodiversity of the area.
Small Mammal Traps
Bait for Small Mammals
Day One: Creating a Grid
Students will learn how to create a grid. The class will make a 10,000 yard perimeter that
consists of 10 posts placed 10 yards apart from each other. Students will get into groups
of 2 and will be responsible for measuring and staking a single line in the perimeter.
Day Two: Vegetation Sampling
In order to study small mammal density, it is important understand the environment we
are sampling. Students will receive instruction on how to measure vegetation growth in a
given area. While GPS technology is not accessible in the high school curriculum,
students will be given graph paper that can represent the area they are sampling.
The students will count the trees in each individual square and plot the trees using rough
estimation on their graph paper.
*Trees are illustrated by the green points
Day Three: Setting Small Mammal Traps
Students will receive previous instruction on how to set up small mammal traps. They
will get into pairs and be in charge of a one line consisting of 10 stakes. They will set up
a small mammal trap at each stake and collect data the following day.
After setting up the traps, students can receive instruction on the different species of
small mammals in the general area. They can compare skeletal and physical
characteristics, and well as preferred habitats.
Day Four: Collecting Small Mammals
The traps will be checked to see if any small mammals were captured. The stakes where
the traps are located are numbered, so students will record the stake number where the
animal was captured. The animals captured in each line will be brought to the front and
instruction will be given on how to correctly release the small mammals and how weigh
them. Information can also be given on marking animals and how the frequency of the
same animal being captured leads to information involving population density. Because
trapping will occur for one day, animals will not be marked.
Day Five: Analysis of Trees and Mammal Catches
Using a colored pencil or marker, students will plot on their graph at which posts the
small mammals were caught. They can then make inferences regarding how vegetation in
a given area affects small mammal activity.