Module 1: An Ecology/Climate Scenario

James S. Oliver III and Russell W. Graham, The Pennsylvania State University
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Initial Publication Date: July 5, 2018 | Reviewed: August 4, 2022


In this activity, participants read a short scenario and answer a series of questions to emulate the scientific process of making observations and hypotheses. Entitled Gotta find a better place to fish..., the scenario details observations of biological, environmental, and ecological changes to a mountain stream over time. Participants answer questions that ask them to hypothesize why some of these changes might be occurring and how they are related.

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Learning Goals

By the end of this activity, participants will:

  1. Gain basic information about ecology and paleoecology.
  2. Think critically about about observations and develop hypotheses.

Context for Use

This is a laboratory type exercise that can accompany a lecture series on climate change and biotic response. It can be be used for any size class since it is on line. Classes of about 20-25 are the most ideal of they are being facilitated by an instructor.

This is the first module in a series of 7 modules to be used by participants to understand how climate change in the past and future affects the distribution of mammal species. Each module builds on the next to introduce participants to climate patterns, change in climate through time, ecology & paleoecology and the interaction between climate and biotic distributions.

Description and Teaching Materials

Participants are given background information and then asked to answer a series of questions in order to assess their comprehension of the material. If they have problems with the exercises, they should reread the material, use references that are provided, or be facilitated by an instructor.

Module 1: An Ecology/Climate Scenario (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.1MB Jul5 18)

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Teaching Notes/Tips:
    • Stream lower - drier climate with less precipitation

    • Lack of insects - lack of habitat like ponds of water on flood plain
    • Dead trees - drought
    • Muskrat burrow - lower stream level
    • Flower from plains - drier environment at fishing hole
    • Absence of marmot and presence of mule deer - drier environment and lack of grasses
    • Beaver gone - lower stream level with less current
    • Mountain White fish & Rainbow trout - require cool streams with current, indicates lower stream with warmer water


  • Assessment
    • Quiz

    • Have students write a scenario about the area in which they live.

References and Resources