Today we did a mark/recapture activity in Applied Ecology. All afternoon students captured orthopterans (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and locusts), and marked them with one dot of non-toxic paint. Tomorrow we will have students recapture crickets. After finding the percentage of orthopterans captured tomorrow we can estimate the total population of orthopterans on the field.
“Applied Ecology” is the segment of Conserve School’s Environmental Science course that focuses on the life sciences. “Sustainable Systems,” the other segment of the course, focuses on physical and social science topics like renewable energy, social practices, and economic systems.
In the photos, you can see our students on a small section of campus that includes an ephemeral pond and a hill and that was disturbed by construction. Once the school buildings were completed, the area was planted with prairie grasses and wildflowers native to the Midwest. Located just behind the school garden, this open, natural area is often used for science projects, seed collection, star-gazing, and, in the winter, sledding.
The mark and recapture lab gives students the opportunity to learn and practice a population estimation method used commonly in wildlife research. This activity provides a great combination of outdoor activity, college-preparatory learning, and just plain fun. If you like the outdoors as much as our students and staff do, you really can’t beat running around in tall grass on a beautiful afternoon with a butterfly net and a paint pot!
Thanks to Andy for contributing these photos and the activity description to our blog.
– Mary Anna