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VOLUME 13 TEACHING ISSUES AND EXPERIMENTS IN ECOLOGY
PRACTICE

Investigating Leaf Litter Decomposition and Invertebrate Communities in Streams

Survey flag marking sample site in stream. (Photo by T. Snukuts)

AUTHOR

Alida F. Janmaat

University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada (Alida.Janmaat@ufv.ca)


THE ECOLOGICAL QUESTION

How do abiotic and biotic factors impact invertebrate species diversity, invertebrate community structure and leaf litter decomposition in streams?

ECOLOGICAL CONTENT

Species tolerance curves, diversity indices, litter decomposition rates, invasive species, freshwater ecology

WHAT STUDENTS DO

This dataset exercise has been developed from a classroom-based undergraduate research project on stream ecology that has been conducted in a second-year introductory ecology course. In this exercise, students first collect background information on what factors affect benthic macroinvertebrate communities or leaf litter decomposition in streams. Based on their acquired knowledge, students then develop literature-based hypotheses independently, or as a group. Students then examine the supplied dataset, plot figures and analyze data relating to their hypotheses. Students hand-in a scaffolded set of assignments that reflect different portions of a scientific paper. This format allows instructors to provide formative feedback from the students’ initial reading of the literature to their final analyses. Alternatively, instructors may select to have students plot figures of specific relationships to highlight certain ecological concepts that pertain to community or ecosystem ecology. This activity can be modified to suit a variety of levels.

SKILLS

  • Hypothesis Formation: develop literature-based hypotheses and predictions
  • Data Analysis: select data from a series of Excel worksheets for analysis, conduct basic statistical analyses
  • Data Visualization: create figures to visually represent data
  • Data Interpretation: interpret results and evaluate hypotheses

STUDENT-ACTIVE APPROACHES

independent or group open-inquiry projects

ASSESSABLE OUTCOMES

annotated bibliography, proposed hypotheses and data analysis, written interpretation of figures and statistical analyses

SOURCE

Data were obtained from a classroom-based undergraduate research project developed and taught by A.F. Janmaat.

DOWNLOADS

Description of Resource Files:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge all the students who have participated in the stream study, since its inception in 2008, and in particular those students who participated in the study in 2015. I would like to acknowledge Barbara Moon for including Streamkeepers training in the first years of the ecology course which provided the framework for the stream study. I would like to thank Sharon Gillies for her continued support of the project and for co-teaching the stream study for two years. I would like to thank Vicki Marlatt, Allan Ardnt, and Jenn Barrett, who each co-taught one semester of the study. I would like to thank Leslie Wood, Andrea Muelchen, Avril Alfred, and Alexa Kernel for technical support. I would like to thank Lucy Liu and the Faculty of Science for their support of the project. Funding for the stream study was provided by the Faculty of Science, UFV. I would like to thank the members of the QUBES Dig into Data Faculty Mentoring Network who provided feedback on the dataset and two anonymous reviewers.

CITATION

Alida F. Janmaat. February 2018, posting date. Investigating Leaf Litter Decomposition and Invertebrate Communities in StreamsTeaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 13: Practice #4 [online]. http://tiee.esa.org/vol/v13/issues/data_sets/janmaat/abstract.html