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Explore Rocky Mountain Biology Lab (RMBL) Data

Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

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In this instructional lesson plan, students analyze data from a study on the effects of climate warming on a subalpine meadow in Gothic CO, called the “warming meadow”. This long-term experiment provides a means of discovering the actual mechanisms governing ecosystem responses to climate warming.

This activity takes two or more lesson periods, dependent upon the parts assigned as homework.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
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Equilibrium and feedback loops in climate system
About Teaching Principle 2
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Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
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Life affects climate; climate affects life
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
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B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:B) Changes in matter
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B) Changes in matter.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
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C) Energy.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:A) Organisms, populations, and communities
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A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
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C) Systems and connections.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Engage the students in a discussion about the experimental setup and the datasets before posing the suggested research questions.
  • Educator should introduce feedback loop concept prior to teaching this lesson and may want to teach students how to draw causal loops.
  • An Earth System Science analysis tool developed by ESSEA may enrich this activity.

About the Science

  • Lesson plan is based on the research of Dr. John Harte and Dr. David Inouye at the RMBL.
  • Scientific data is provided to answer suggested questions. Background materials are provided (paper from 1995, while data on updated plots goes to 2010).
  • Comments from expert scientist: The datasets are excellent, and the activities seem well thought out. It's a great resource, and an excellent set of experiments and designs to expose students to. This is suited to college level instruction, and likely would be far too much at the high school level. It is not as developed as other lesson plans and curricula- the material is there, but might be difficult to use "out of the box."

About the Pedagogy

  • All the relevant data is provided and some instructional strategies are given, but instructor will have to engage the students.
  • Students will likely need help understanding and interpreting the scientific datasets.
  • Additional background material (not included) may be needed to understand the patterns observed in the data. Could be a great basis for an ecology lab.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Data is available for download (see orange links on right hand side in data module). It will likely be easier for students to work with the downloaded data than with the flash animations of the graphs.
  • As of April 2013, only the first of the two modules (Warming Meadow Experiment) was available online.

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