Ecosystem Project SPRING 2020

The Ecosystem Project Links: Ecosystem project handout Ecosystem presentation handout. Ecosystem Project Rubric Calendar Spring 2020: Thurs/Fri Jan. 9/10- Introduce Ecosystem Project & request partners. Mon/Tues Jan. 13/14- Have critter chosen & begin researching habitats/terrariums. (class time) Weds/Thurs. Jan. 15/16- Go to Holbrook park. No work on terrarium. Fri/Tues Jan. 17/21- Set up health reports. Continue research (class time) Wed/Thurs Jan. 22/23- Begin bringing in materials (class time) Fri Jan. 24 & Weds. 29th - No class time. Mon/Tues Jan. 27 & 28th- Holbrook Park. no class time. Thurs/Fri. Jan. 30 & 31st- Ecosystem complete. Ecosystem presentations. The Ecosystem Project Goal:  You will research and build a mini ecosystem (terrarium) that you will maintain and study for the rest of the semester.

Parameters:  The loose parameters are as follows.  They may change or become more specific as we go along.

  1. A max of three people can work in a terrarium group.  

  2. Your ecosystem must be terrestrial, not aquatic – in other words, no fish tanks like in marine bio.

  3. You can make an ecosystem that has terrestrial AND aquatic parts.

  4. Your ecosystem must support plants and at least one animal.

  5. The animals in your ecosystem must be small/non-mammals (rollie pollies, crickets, earth worms, meal worms (which turn into super cool darkling beetles), ladybugs, grasshoppers, firebelly toads, geckos, …)

  6. No venomous animals allowed!!!

  7. You will be responsible for taking good care of your ecosystem, so plan to do things like water it, add compost, feed your critters, give your critters heat or light, take your ecosystem home over spring break, find a forever home for your ecosystem at the end of the semester (Leaving it for Ms. Kamin is not an option). Neglecting your critters is actually animal cruelty (even if it is “just” a mealworm), and will result in a failing grade!

  8. You will have to turn in a Weekly Ecosystem Health Report – these will be part of your grade for this project.  If there is a death in your ecosystem, you will have to fill out a “death report” in which you must account for the death of your animal or plant – was it accidental, bad luck, or neglect?  Depending on the findings your grade may or may not be affected.  

  9. Ecosystem Protective Services – I will do random checks on your ecosystems (this is a graded event).  If it is well taken care of you have nothing to worry about, if not it will affect your grade negatively.  If you are concerned about an ecosystem you can anonymously submit a request for a random check.  

  10. In order to take care of the living parts of your ecosystem you have to be knowledgeable about them, so you will have to research the needs of the animals and plants you plan to use.

  11. No Snakes!! We tried it for a couple semesters, but snakes lead to more issues than any other organism.  The mortality rate for snakes is way higher than for any other organism, and the feeder mice tend to be treated in a manner that borderlines on animal cruelty.  People in general are very fearful of snakes, and careless snake owners in the past almost cost us our ability to do this project at all.  

  12. You do not have to invest a ton of cash to get a good grade on this project.  An ecosystem that contains grass, rollie pollies, and crickets within an empty plastic cheese ball container will receive the same grade as a $300 gecko set up if they both meet the project’s parameters.  

What we have learned over the years:

  1. The temperature in this room is not warm enough for things like anoles and other reptiles, hermit crabs, or any amphibians.  You must therefore supply some type of heat for your critter if you choose one of these.  A heating pad, or a heat lamp will work – this is more investment on your part.  

  2. Things like insects or worms tend to get neglected because people don’t have an emotional connection with them, so either choose something you will feel more attached to, or name your cricket or worm so that you feel more obligated to take care of it.  The “It’s just a worm/cricket, who cares?” mentality is bad for the health of your critter, and is Animal Cruelty!!!

  3. Bringing in something that you have already at home is fine.  Maybe you will create a better circumstance for it.  

  4. Earthworms are a cop-out animal in an ecosystem, because there is nothing that you really have to do for them (other than keeping the soil moist) and you never really see them.  If you want earthworms in your ecosystem, that’s great because it fills another niche, making your ecosystem more complete, but you have to have another animal that lives above ground as well.  

  5. Plants do not grow in coconut fiber substrate! If you must use it, you need to add some soil for your plants otherwise they will die a slow death of starvation.  

  6. If you are going to make a dry ecosystem, you need a plant that tolerates dry conditions otherwise it will die!  Don’t put a cactus in a toad enclosure because it will become waterlogged and die!

  7. Size Matters!!!  You can’t put a toad in a mason jar – not enough room!

  8. Admin is not happy when things escape.  You need a cover that is escape proof!  

Timeline: this is a projected timeline and will probably change.

Day 1 – determine type of ecosystem to make then research

Day 2 – Continue research, plan your ecosystem, make a materials list

Collect Materials

Day 3 – Ecosystem construction – put all of your materials together to make your ecosystem

Day 4 – Finish construction, create ecosystem fact sheet

Day 5 – Ecosystem presentations

Possible types of ecosystems:  

Worm composting:

Predator – Prey column:



Other useful websites:

Materials:  The materials that you use for this project are mostly things that you can find laying or living around your house.  Some things can be purchased at garden or pet stores if you desire.  Craig’s List is a good option for getting a full set up cheap, but please be careful!

Possible materials:  soda bottles; LARGE, empty CLEAR containers; garden soil; gravel; rocks; heat lamp; water and food bowls; etc.???? COMMON LAST MINUTE QUESTIONS before presentation day! 1. What if I don't have my critter?! You will present what you DO have and all the information you know about your critter. You will not receive 100% but if you have done all your research and have everything else you could receive up to 80%.  
2. What if my group members didn't do their share?
You will write a reflection that shares with me who did what & who did not meet expectations.
3. What if I have nothing?
You can get an 'A' on this assignment with a plant & some rollie pollies.  Do your research, fill out your papers, make a terrarium and be prepared to present. 
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