DOCUMENTARY OF AN ECOSYSTEM
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OVERVIEW:
All organisms, including humans, are part of a population living in communities within an ecosystem. Each community occupies a definite geographical area. Many different plant and animal species make up the community, with various species occurring in rather constant proportions. Food and energy pass through the food web and keep the entire community alive. During this semester, you will document the populations of a community within an ecosystem. You will be required to visit your site and take down observations of your area, and to note all changes.


Your documentary will consist of the following parts:
1. Introduction to your Eco-site including a site map
2. Classification of site plants and animals
3. Research on your particular plant & animal community
4. Analysis of concepts and conservation issues relevant to your site


All requirements will be detailed in the following pages and in some handouts to be given later on. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY! You will work in a group three members. I strongly advise that you meet with your partners SOON to discuss how you will organize your site visits, observations and documentation. You will need to allocate the work equally between members of the team. Your group will be evaluated on teamwork.

BECOMING AN ECOLOGIST:

What is an ecosystem?
Ecosystem: A level of ecological study that includes all the organisms in a given area along with the abiotic factors (non-living parts of an ecosystem such as temperature, humidity, mineral content) with which they interact: a community and its physical environment.

Choosing group members:

TEAM ROLES:
These are suggested team roles – please be flexible & help each other out as needed. These roles will rotate for each of the four major assignments.

ASSESSMENT:

This assignment will be worth 10% of your 1st semester grade. Of that 10%, 8% will be a group grade and 2% will be based on your individual contribution to the project.
You will be required to visit your site periodically throughout the semester. You will be expected to hand in your project work 1- 2 times per month (this will vary). Your completed project will be due at the end of the semester.

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DOCUMENTARY OF AN ECOSYSTEM

Preliminary Assignment - Due 9/5

1. GROUP MEMEBERS LIST
2. SITE LOCATION & PERMISSION
3. SAFETY CONTRACT SIGNED

Visit 1      Due 9/14 (or first day after fall break)
1. SELECT THE SITE (make sure it fits all criteria)
2. TAKE PHOTOS
3. PROVIDE A MAP SHOWING THE EXACT LOCATION OF YOUR SITE
4. LAYOUT YOUR SITE
5. DRAW A SITE PROFILE MAP
6. WRITE AN INTRODUCTION AND DESCRIPTION OF YOUR SITE
*Plan at least 1 hour for visiting your site and 2-3 hours for the assignment.

1. SELECT THE SITE

Chose a site that:


*If you have a large enough uncultivated site in your backyard you may do the project there.
*When you visit your site you are to be quiet and respect the area (do not litter and do not remove anything)

SAFETY
We will go over safety rules for this project in a separate document. Please read the safety rules carefully and ask questions about any safety concerns or questions that you have. The safety contracts must be signed by you and a parent / guardian. Please make a photocopy of the contract and turn one copy in to your teacher & place one copy in the binder.

2. TAKE PHOTOS
Start early because you will need to allow time for film processing!
You MUST include photographs of your study site with this report. Take a photo from each perimeter of your site. Think carefully how you are going to take the photographs of your site so that they most accurately reflect the characteristics of your site.
If you wish to finish your roll of film, you may start collecting data for a future assignment by taking close-up pictures of the plants (leaves and flowers) and signs of animal presence (tracks, scat, etc…). Next month you will need photos of each species of plant that you find in your plot. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to catch wildlife in your ecoplot !


3. PROVIDE A MAP SHOWING THE EXACT LOCATION OF YOUR SITE
You should make three copies of a map that shows how to get to your site – one for your binder, one for your teacher to keep on file, and one for your parents. Major roads teading to the area of your site must be shown on the map (e.g. El Camino, Alameda, highways, etc…).

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4. LAYOUT YOUR SITE
(We will practice laying out a plot in class.)
You will map out a square plot measuring 10 meters by 10 meters to document the type of terrain in your site. You may do this by carefully pacing out the plot or by following the method below. If you have permission from the owner of the site, you may use stakes to mark the corners of the site. If not, use a temporary marking method, such as gardening tape. Do not leave any materials at the site.

Materials you will need if you are using the staking method include:

Instructions:
1. Measure a 20 meter length of strong twine. Make 1 meter divisions of the 20 meter length of twine by marking with colored markers at these intervals.


2. Drive a stake at one corner of the site or mark it somehow. Use the twine to measure 10 meters to the next corner and stake/mark that corner. Pull the remaining 10 meters of twine to form the third corner, creating a right angle with the two sides of the twine.


3. Holding the two ends of the twine at opposite corners, pull the twine away from the middle corner to form the last corner.


4. While still at the site, plot the site on graph paper in your lab notebook. Arbitrarily, you should divide it into subplots. There should be a minimum of nine subplots. From this you will construct your site profile.

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5. DRAW A SITE PROFILE MAP
Draw a profile of your ecosystem on four separate transparency sheets corresponding to the following four layers of your site. We will use a system of symbols to represent each component of the ecosystem (see next page). We recommend that you make a rough draft of your map on graph paper before making the transparencies.


A. Transparency layer 1: the Grid Outline your 10m2 plot using a piece of graph paper.


B. Transparency layer 2: Floor covering and Herbaceous plants and seedlings
Floor covering (litter, fungi - mushrooms, molds, etc.).

Herbaceous plants and tree seedlings.
Herbaceous plants are nonwoody plants that die down to the ground by wintertime. These include grasses, grains, and small flowering plants.

C. Transparency layer 3: Shrubs and saplings

D. Transparency Layer 4: Subcanopy and Canopy layer

Trees make up the canopy layer of an ecosystem.

Plant types
Woody vegetation Herbaceous vegetation
Deciduous D
Coniferous C Grass G
Nongrass N
ECOLOGICAL SITE PROFILE KEYSymbol Color of Symbol Meaning of Symbol

Leaf Litter and ground cover; dirt

Water

Erosion

Herbaceous Layer

Shrub/Sapling Layer
Canopy:Subcanopy:

Deciduous Trees
Canopy:Subcanopy:
Coniferous Trees

6. WRITE AN INTRODUCTION AND DESCRIPTION
Your written introduction and description will accompany your site profile and photographs. It must include the following:

Here are some tips to help the project go smoothly:
*PLAN CAREFULLY -- Begin as soon as you can. It will be impossible to do a decent job if you put it off.
*READ ALL DIRECTIONS, DO ALL NECESSARY RESEARCH -- If you don't understand the directions, ASK!
*DON'T LOSE ANY DATA! -- Once it's gone, there is no way to get it back. If one of your partners has all of the information and looses it, you lose too. If your partner doesn't do what he/she is supposed to do, you lose. Pick your partners carefully and keep at least two copies of all data!

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