Course Summary – Populations and Ecosystems
Look around . . . you’re in an ecosystem. How do you know? Because there are organisms everywhere. An ecosystem is an organizational unit of life on Earth, defined by a physical environment and the organisms that live there. This course explores the anchor phenomenon of population dynamics within ecosystems. The driving question for the course is how do organisms, matter, and energy interact in an ecosystem?
Organisms depend on their ecosystem for survival. Energy and matter, in the form of food, flow through an ecosystem. The critical role of photosynthetic organisms in creating food is what allows the rest of the organisms in the ecosystem to exist. Disruption to one element of the ecosystem produces waves and ripples that touch every member of the system. Changes may produce pressures in the ecosystem. When change is precipitous, a population may be exterminated.
One powerful change agent in just about every ecosystem on Earth is humans. Human mobility, technology, and institutions place pressures on many ecosystems. The first step toward alleviating disruptive pressure on natural systems is understanding how they work and what they need to remain healthy.
This course provides students with the first steps along the path of ecological understanding, with the hope that their future steps will be considered and measured, serving the interests of all life.
For a description of each investigation in Populations and Ecosystems and correlations to Next Generation Science Standards, download the Populations and Ecosystems Course Overview PDF.
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