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Changing Planet: Adaptation of Butterflies

National Earth Science Teachers Association, Windows to the Universe/NBC Learn

This video addresses the impact of climate change on several butterfly populations. Warming temperatures lead to shifts in location of populations of butterflies or die-offs of populations unable to adapt to changing conditions or shift to new locations.

Video length: 6:25 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

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

  • Note: you may need to scroll down the Changing Planet video page to get to this video.
  • A good way to introduce the linkages between biological adaptation and evolution and climate change.

About the Science

  • Butterflies are very good indicators of the health of the ecosystem they are in.
  • If habitat is degrading, butterflies will show the impacts first.
  • Over the last 30 years, shifts have occurred where butterflies live.
  • Their areas of residency are shifting - whole populations go extinct while other areas regain populations.
  • The average location of a population today is about 100 miles further north of where is used to be.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This short movie gives a very good insight into the problems faced by species (in this case butterflies) when adapting to climate change. As a movie it is easy to follow the key points, and to see the researcher involved in the study. The video focuses on two scientists and there is so much variation in the response of species to climate change that those two researchers likely do not give the whole picture.

About the Pedagogy

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-ESS3.C1:Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

MS-LS4.C1:Adaptation by natural selection acting over generations is one important process by which species change over time in response to changes in environmental conditions. Traits that support successful survival and reproduction in the new environment become more common; those that do not become less common. Thus, the distribution of traits in a population changes.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS3.C1:The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources.

HS-LS4.D1:Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustaining biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value.

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