Jump to this Activity »
Explore Rocky Mountain Biology Lab (RMBL) Data
http://www.digitalrmbl.org/p116.php

Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

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.

Discuss this Resource»
Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

The interconnectedness of Earth’s systems means that a significant change in any one component of the climate system can influence the equilibrium of the entire Earth system. Positive feedback loops can amplify these effects and trigger abrupt changes in the climate system. These complex interactions may result in climate change that is more rapid and on a larger scale than projected by current climate models.
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2f
Individual organisms survive within specific ranges of temperature, precipitation, humidity, and sunlight. Organisms exposed to climate conditions outside their normal range must adapt or migrate, or they will perish.
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3a
e on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate
About Teaching Principle L
Other materials addressing Lif
Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change. Animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses will migrate to new areas with favorable climate conditions. Infectious diseases and certain species will be able to invade areas that they did not previously inhabit.
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
The world contains a wide diversity of physical conditions, which creates a wide variety of environments: freshwater, marine, forest, desert, grassland, mountain, and others. In any particular environment, the growth and survival of organisms depend on the physical conditions
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms and entire species.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

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.

Jump to this Activity »



Have you used these materials with your students? Do you have insights to share with other educators about their use? Please share with the community by adding a comment below.

Please use this space only for discussion about teaching with these particular materials.
For more general discussion about teaching climate literacy please use our general discussion boards.
To report a problem or direct a comment to the CLEAN project team please use our feedback form (or the feedback link at the bottom of every page).
Off-topic posts will be deleted.

Join the Discussion


Log in to reply