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Daisyworld: Stella Mac or PC

This Activity was developed by Dave Bice, Carleton College Geology Department. Starting Point page organized by R.M. MacKay.
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


Daisyworld is a very simple planet that has only two species of life on its surface - white and black daisies, and bare ground. Daisyworld is a good example of homeostasis and was first proposed by James Lovelock as a plausible example of his Gaia hypothesis. With guidance, students build a Stella model of Daisyworld from scratch. After constructing the model they perform guided experiments to explore the behavior of Daisyworld to changes in model parameters and assumptions.

Learning Goals

Students explore:
  • Concepts and terms such as:
    • Stefan-Boltzman's radiation law
    • albedo, emissivity, blackbody
  • Basics of Stella and Model construction in the Stella environment
  • The concept of homeostasis
  • Learn how surface albedo changes can influence local and global temperature
  • Use a plausible plant growth factor as a function of local temperature

Context for Use

Appropriate for introductory geoscience courses with an Earth Systems approach.

Teaching Materials

The complete activity is located at Dave Bice's Daisyworld (more info) using Stella II.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity will likely take about 3 to 4 hours for students to work through assuming some introduction and discussion about Daisy world and the Stella environment in lecture. If you do not have Stella at your school you can download a free demo version of Stella from High Performance Systems, Inc.


Grading completed activity is a good measure of assessment. Also a follow-up in class discussion can help assess student understanding of key concepts.

References and Resources

Here is a link to Daisy World Model (more info) written by R.M. MacKay.

More on Daisy World: a feedback perspective.


Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change, Biology:Ecology:Abiotic Relations, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change:Global change modeling, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climatology , Climate Change:Global change modeling, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Forecasting

Resource Type

Activities:Lab Activity

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Earth's Cycles:Carbon Cycle, Climate, Biosphere, Atmosphere, Biosphere:Ecology, Atmosphere:Weather


Climate, Biosphere


Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Atmospheric Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Weather, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Climate Change