AP Biology Unit 8: Ecology and Behavior

Updated!: by this point I need you to have watched all  the videos through Ecosystems (part 6).  Their will be a quiz on what we talked about in class last time.


Field Study - Describe and Evaluate A Local Ecosystem
In this project you will engage in real field work. You will observe and collect data to describe an ecosystem in detail. This project will last the entire unit and you will add to it as we progress. You will create a web page to present this work. (Watch this video on how to create a googlesites web page ). I would like for you to include pictures and/or video to support your data collection.


Describe a local ecosystem. Make sure the boundaries are clear and easy to delineate. For example, you could use your backyard, the park around the corner or a local pond. You will have to spend time out in this environment collecting data so make sure you pick somewhere accessible.


Part 1: The basics

Prior to beginning this section you need to:

Work on your note packet
Make sure you can define species, population, community, ecosystem and biome

Task #1: Identify and describe your chosen ecosystem.

  • Give a basic description - For example your backyard, local park, or nearby pond.
    • What type of Biome is it a part of?
    • Identify as many separate populations of living things in the community as you can. It must include at least one animal species and one plant species. Provide pictures. You may have to do some research to determine the names of the species you observe.
    • Describe the abiotic factors that impact the environment. Be complete and detailed in how they impact.

Mastery quiz #1- Introduction to ecology - this will be combined with the section below for an-in-class quiz


Part 2: Signs of Change?

Prior to beginning this section you need to:

Work on your note packets

Make sure you can:

  • Define and differentiate between Primary and Secondary Succession
    • Describe the stages of ecological succession
  • Define and differentiate between Eutrophic and Oligotrophic lakes
    • describe the stages of lake death

Task #2: Describe how this ecosystem took shape.

  • Based on your observations can you suggest how your ecosystem came to be as it is today?
    • Use ideas of succession to describe where you ecosystem is in the process?
    • What evidence is there to support your claims? Types of species? Environmental history?
    • What if anything do you suspect will happen in the future? Why?

Mastery quiz #2- Changes in systems - this will be combined with the section above for an-in-class quiz


Part 3: Population Demographics

Prior to beginning this section you need to:


Work on your note packets

Make sure you can:

  • Define demographics, carrying capacity, r-selected, k-selected, density dependent factors, density independent factors, Type I, II, and III survivorship curves.
  • Describe the different patterns of dispersion and what influences them
  • Calculate the rate of growth for a population.
  • Determine the factors that influence the carrying capacity for a particular ecosystem and how the carrying capacity affects the rate of growth.

Task #3: Pick two easily identifiable populations within your ecosystem (one plant and one animal) and describe the demographics.

  • Estimate the Population Size. Describe you method of data collection and show your data. Do you suspect this population size may be changing? Why? Form a hypothesis to suggest what limiting factors are influencing the growth of these populations. Are these density dependent factors or density independent factors?
    • How could you determine the extent of the change in the population size? (you will check this at the end of the project)
  • What patterns of dispersion do you observe? Form a hypothesis to explain these observed patterns.
  • Are your populations R-selected or K-selected?
  • Do your populations exhibit a type I, II, or III survivorship curve? Give evidence?

Mastery quiz #3 - Population Ecology


Part 4: Community Interactions

Prior to beginning this section you need to:

Work on your note packets

Make sure you can:

  • Define niche and differentiate between potential niche and realized niche.
  • Define the competitive exclusion principle and resource partitioning.
  • Describe the 6 different types of species interactions
  • Differentiate between intra-specific and inter-specific competition.
  • Define keystone species, invasive species, coevolution,
  • Define and differentiate between cryptic coloration and aposematic coloration.
  • Define and differentiate between Mullerian and Batesian Mimicry.

Task #4: Describe any clearly identifiable niches that are being filled in the ecosystem and discuss specific species interactions.

  • Pick two easily identifiable populations within your ecosystem (one plant and one animal) and describe their niches. What habitat and role do they fill? What resources do they use and/or provide?
  • What interactions between species can be observed in the community? Find and document examples.
  • Can you observe any apparent evidence of resource partitioning within your ecosystem? describe and document (pictures).
  • Can any species be identified as a keystone species? If so what is the keystone species and how does it fill this role?
  • Are there any obvious invasive species? If so how did they get there and what impact are they having? Show evidence.
  • Do you see any evidence of co-evolution? If so, describe and document.
  • Can you find examples of either cryptic coloration or aposematic coloration in your ecosystem? If so describe and document (take pictures).
  • Can you find examples of mimicry in your ecosystem? If so describe and document (take pictures).

Mastery quiz #4- Community Interactions


Part 5: Energy Flow

Prior to beginning this section you need to:

Work on your note packets

Make sure you can:

  • Define and differentiate between Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers
  • Describe a typical food chain/web - identifying the trophic levels
  • Describe and explain a pyramid of energy and a pyramid of numbers and how they are related.
  • Define and give an example of biological magnification

Task #5: Develop a food chain for your ecosystem.

  • Identify the producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers, and decomposers in your ecosystem
  • Create a graphic representation of the flow of energy through your system. See if you can compile any data to show a corresponding pyramid of numbers.
  • Can you find any evidence of biological magnification in your ecosystem? If so, try to describe and document.

Mastery quiz #5- Energy Flow


Part 6: Nutrient Cycling Flow

Prior to beginning this section you need to:

Work on your note packets

Make sure you can:

  • Define the following terms: Fixation, Assimilation, decomposition, reservoir, limiting factor
  • Identify the main elements of the Carbon Cycle, Nitrogen Cycle, Phosphorous Cycle, and water cycle

Task #6: Illustrate two of the cycles above.

  • Using specific organisms from your ecosystem. Make sure to explain what role the organism plays in the cycle.

Mastery quiz #6- Nutrient Cycles


Part 7: Human Impact

Prior to beginning this section you need to:

Watch these videos:

Al Gore on averting climate crisis (TED 16 min)

Jonathan Foley: "The Other Inconvenient Truth" (TED 18min)

Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic (TED 7.5 min)

Yann Arthus-Bertrand captures fragile Earth in wide-angle (TED 15 min)

Eben Bayer: Are mushrooms the new plastic? (TED 9min)

optional How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth (Full Documentary 48min)

Bjarke Ingels: 3 warp-speed architecture tales (Eco-Architecture) (TED 18min)

Work on your note packets

Make sure you can:

  • Define the following terms: Bio-magnification, Greenhouse effect, global warming, acid rain, ozone, deforestation, overpopulation, urban sprawl, pollution
  • Identify the major sources of human impact on the environment

Task #7: How have humans impacted your ecosystem.

  • Identify and give evidence of two specific examples of human impact on your ecosystem.
  • Discuss how these impacts are changing the ecosystem and what the long term effects may be.
  • Suggest ways to reduce this impact.
Mastery quiz #7- Human Impact

Final reflection: On your webpage I would like you to write a final reflection paper. Consider the following questions.

  • What did you learn about conducting field work?
  • How do you now understand the interconnection between the living and physical worlds?
  • How do you know understand the interconnection between living things?
  • What questions do you have about sustainability?
  • How do you look at the living world differently?
  • Are you inspired to make different choices to affect your impact on the environment? Such as?

Homework for March 16
  • If you haven't already, then you must watch the two videos on population ecology (scroll down)
  • Watch the two videos on community ecology (scroll down)
  • There will be a quiz

Homework for March 17-18
  • Watch the video on Energy Flow through systems (part 5 below)
  • Watch the video on Nutrient Cycling through systems (part 6 below)
  • There will be a quiz
  • Things to know
    • the math: what does "r" = , what about "K" and "N"  what happens as K approaches N
    • Potential niche vs realized niche and how it relates to Competitive exclusion and resource partitioning
    • Difference between intra- and inter - specific competition
    • Define primary productivity and net productivity
    • Understand pyramids
    • Know your trophic levels
    • What are limiting factors and what happens when they are scarce vs when you supplement one
    • Difference between primary and secondary succession, be able to describe
    • Eutrophic vs oligotrophic lakes and the process of lake death
    • Aposematic vs cryptic coloration two different strategies to accomplish the same thing
    • Difference between Batesian vs Mullerian Mimicry
    • Define and have an example of co-evolution
    • Why are energy transfers from trophic levels not 100% efficient, approx how efficient are they?
    • When and why do laKes turnover?  What does this result in?
    • Describe and give the reasons for different patterns of species distribution. (clumped vs uniform vs random)
    • Difference between an "r" selected vs K selected species (here's an easy explanation)
    • Briefly review survivorship curves
    • Keystone species, endemic species, invasive species - define and give example
    • Briefly review age structure diagrams
    • Know your cycles - Water, carbon, phosphorus, and NITROGEN
    • Define commensalism, mutualism, parsitism, predation
    • Know difference between density dependent factors and density independent factors.
    • Brief understandings of human impacts on the environment
    • On the free response section you will have to THINK. Some is difficult some are easy but might look difficult.  One requires you to put ideas together from some other units. but not too hard.