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Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) WarmUp Activity: Dam Removal - A Good Idea or Not?

Laura Guertin, Penn State University Delaware County
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1) What are some of the biological effects of dam removal (good and bad)?

2) What are some of the more pressing/compelling reasons to remove a dam? Explain.

3) The Stanley and Doyle (2003) article states that, "dam removal cannot be avoided." Hypothetically, let's say you are placed on a committee to oversee the removal of the Aswan High Dam, since Doyle et al. (2003) states that, "the functional lifespan of most dams is approximately 60-120 years." What scientific studies would you conduct before/during/after dam removal? Why?

Student Responses:

See the Just-in-Time Teaching page on assessment for information and ideas on how to evaluate student responses.

Many students are surprised to learn about the limited lifespan of a dam and the increase/decrease in temperature and oxygen levels with dam removal. Students are eager to ask why people living in the local areas of dams do not get much of a say in what will happen with their lives with dam removal. Students also question the financial costs involved with construction and maintenance versus the benefits from having a dam at all. How a dam removal occurs comes up as a topic of discussion. Overall, the introductory-level students commented that the readings suggested here are "a bit long and verbose," but students were able to understand the content.

References and Notes:

Articles that students may be assigned to read for this set of questions include (but are not limited to):

Stanley, E.H., Doyle, M.W. (2003). Trading off: the ecological effects of dam removal. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 1(1), 15-22.

Doyle, M.W., Harbor, J.M., Stanley, E.H. (2003). Toward policies and decision-making for dam removal. Environmental Management, 31(4), 453-465.

The use of Just-in-Time Teaching is discussed in detail on the JiTT Starting Point page.

Additional information on JiTT is available in the book:


Biology:Ecology:Habitats:Freshwater, Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Restoration/Reclamation, Geoscience:Geology, Hydrology:Surface Water:Water Management and Policy

Resource Type

Activities:Classroom Activity:Just in Time Teaching

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Biosphere, :Ecology, Hydrology:Surface Water, Solid Earth, Hydrology


Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Surface Water:Water Management and Policy, Human Dimensions/Resources, Biosphere, Earth surface