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Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience > Investigative Case Based Learning > Investigative Case Based Learning Examples > Investigative Case - "Rio Grande Wildlife Refuge"
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Investigative Case - "Rio Grande Wildlife Refuge"

Developed for Lifelines Online by Wayne McMillan of Garden City Community College and Mark A. Storey of Texarkana College. (www.bioquest.org/lifelines (more info) )
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project

Summary

Picture of an ocelot
As professional ecologists working for the fish and wildlife service, students must develop a plan to manage a new wildlife refuge along the Rio Grande River. The fish and wildlife service plans to connect forest islands along the river, which will become not only a new refuge but also a "wildlife corridor."

Learning Goals

Context for Use

This case is appropriate for an advanced High School or entry level majors Ecology course. The course involves individual and group work ans has a field work component if suitable sites are available.

Considering Class Size - Different types of objectives can be accomplished by implementing case-based learning in different sized classes.

How Do Investigative Cases Fit into Courses?- What issues need to be taken into account before introducing cases to your class?

Teaching Materials

You are a professional ecologist working for the fish and wildlife service, and have been given an assignment to manage a new wildlife refuge along the lower Rio Grande River. It is an unusual refuge since a portion of it must be "constructed". The fish and wildlife service plans to connect forest islands along the river, which will become not only a new refuge but also a "wildlife corridor."

This will be an enormous project, since the refuge will encompass 250 river miles from Falcon Dam to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge at the Gulf Of Mexico. The "corridors" main purpose is to preserve species diversity. Ten distinctly different wildlife communities exist along the river, and are critical for the survival of 115 species of birds and mammals.

Several endangered species are found within these communities including the ocelot, and jaquarundi. These communities are the northern most range of many central and South American species. Other species include the green jay, the hooked bill kite, ferruginous pygmy owl and fulvous whistling duck.

By connecting islands of forests, animals will be able to move and have access to a larger forested area. One of your objectives will be to acquire 135,000 acres of privately owned forested and deforested land along the river. Building a "wildlife corridor" is a concept that relates to an ecological principal called "Island Biogeography theory.

An initial study is needed to obtain estimates of species richness and relative abundance of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in experimental and control plots. Experimental plots should be narrow one hundred meter wide "corridor-like" forest patches. Control plots of similar habitat should be large (approximately 500 acres).

You will also have to do a base line study of animal numbers and species in all existing forest islands. Breeding birds should be sampled by point count technique. Small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and some invertebrates should be sampled by pitfall array and Sherman live trap grids.

Questions for Discussion
  1. Why is it necessary to preserve communities for key species?
  2. Why should we use ecological theory in wildlife management?
  3. If no protection plan is implemented how will species diversity be affected in these communities?

Investigative Activities

Teaching Notes and Tips

How To Use Investigative Cases with Examples - This area of the site lays out the phases Investigative Case Based Learning and key strategies for using it in your class.

Preparing Students for Cases and Collaborative Learning - Hints and advice on how to introduce cases into your class.

Assessment

Artifacts

References and Resources


Subject

Geoscience:Hydrology, Biology:Ecology, Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Restoration/Reclamation, Habitats

Resource Type

Assessments, Activities:Project

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Biosphere:Ecology, Hydrology, Biosphere

Topics

Hydrosphere/Cryosphere, Biosphere, Human Dimensions/Resources

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