Cutting Edge > Climate Change > Ideas for Teaching about Paleoclimate > What do Squirrels know about Climate Change?

This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.

What do Squirrels know about Climate Change?

This activity was developed during the Teaching Climate Change from the Geological Record workshop, held in August 2010.
Contributed by: Beth Norman, Allan Ashworth, and Russell W. Graham

Topic: Squirrels - Nuts about climate change

Course Type: Introductory Course

Description

Overview of activity

Students use members of the squirrel family to determine habitat shifts related to climate changes.

Part 1

Students are provided with a list of animals that include squirrels and non-squirrels. The students will use the Smithsonian Guide to Mammals to determine which ones are members of the squirrel family and their respective habitats.
  1. Go to the Smithsonian Guide to Mammals
    • Click on Family Tree
    • Click on Rodent
    • Click on Family Sciuridae
      (This Lists all genera of squirrels - tree squirrels, chipmunks, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, antelope squirrels, marmots.) Click on a genera to see species.
  2. Provide students a list of animals (such as tree squirrels, beaver, marmot, gopher, chipmunk, ground squirrel, ferret, prairie dog, flying squirrel) to determine which ones are in the squirrel family.
    Students predict which animals will be in the squirrel family. Students then compare their list to the Smithsonian list of genera in the squirrel family to determine which ones are in the family Sciuridae. Discuss results.
  3. Students use species accounts to determine the modern habitat for geographic locations.
    Students look up species accounts for the different squirrel species: specifically - Glaucomys volans, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, Sciurus carolinensis, Sciurus niger, Tamias striatus, Marmota monax, Marmota flaviventris, Cynomys ludovicianus, Spermophilus franklinii, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus.
    From these accounts students categorize species by habitats - grassland, forest or mixed.
  4. Use the map search function under Field Guide in SI Mammal Guide to make a list of squirrels from three different states in different habitats - Pennsylvania , central Illinois, Iowa, and central Nebraska. Click on mammal search then on the state on the map.

Students use their categories to determine whether PA, IL, IA, and NE are forest, grassland or forest/grassland mix.

Part 2

Students compare modern squirrel/habitat data to past data to evaluate climate shifts.

Bring up Miomap on a separate browser.

    1. Click on use MIOMAP
    2. Click on Query/Search Page or query list page
    3. Select FAUNMAP under "database"
    4. Type New Paris in Locality Name
  1. Compare this fauna – especially squirrels – with modern PA from above
    • Questions:
      • What are the differences?
      • What was the habitat/environment like?
      • How has the climate changed to yield the modern squirrel assemblage?
  2. Return to query list page
  3. Enter Smith Falls local fauna in locality name
  4. Review Faunal list and compare with modern NE squirrels from above.
    • Questions:
      • What are the differences?
      • What was the habitat/environment like?
      • How has the climate changed to yield the modern squirrel assemblage?
  5. Return to query list page
  6. Enter Craigmile in locality name
  7. Review faunal list, compare to IA from above, and look for negative data (missing species).
    • Questions:
      • What are the differences?
      • What was the habitat/environment like?
      • How has the climate changed to yield the modern squirrel assemblage?
  8. Discuss results
Extension: Compare modern squirrel assemblages from other states with fossil localities in that state.

Goals

Students should be able to do the following:

Assessment

References



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