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Review and Final Project

This is the final video in the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center's virtual field trip series.

Review and Final Project Transcript

[Steven] Vince and I are here to wrap up our seven videos that we've done with you. We're going to go over each of the videos very quickly and then we're going to tell you about a project that you're going to work on and show you how to do it and what you'll need to know.

So going back to our very first video, when we did an introduction to ecosystems, you might remember this. This gives us two terms up at the top, biotic and abiotic. If you remember, biotic are the living and dead things in an ecosystem and abiotic are the things that cannot be alive in an ecosystem.

[Vince] In lesson two, we looked more closely at abiotic and biotic factors. If you remember, we created a four square chart where we talked about abiotic, different kinds of abiotic things like sun, air, water, and soil, and we learned that the biotic things can be divided into categories, like producers, consumers, and decomposers.

[Steven] In lesson three, we learned about consumers and their scat. Do you remember this big piece of animal scat? The animal was a bear. So, with the animal scat, with the bear scat, we learned about what that bear eats and we can do that with many animals.

If we can learn what the animal eats by looking at its scat, we can figure out if it's an omnivore, a carnivore, or an herbivore. Our project for that one was to make scat. So, you might some of the scat samples that I showed you. But in those scat samples, we had either acorn shells or peanut shells, maybe pieces of plant or fur.

[Vince] In lesson four, we looked more closely at consumers. Specifically trying to determine how different kinds of consumers have adapted to their food sources, looking at omnivores, carnivores, and herbivores. We focused on their teeth structure as well as their eye placement.

Your activity in this lesson was to find some food sources some natural food sources and think about what kinds of consumers might eat them, draw pictures of their teeth structure, as well as writing a story about a consumer and how it survives and adapts to its given ecosystem.

[Steven] In video five, Vince talked to you about producers, specifically leaves. Remember, the purpose of leaves is to absorb the sun's energy to produce food for the plant which also ends up food for the animals. That was polished off by making a leaf book with leaf rubbings and labels for the parts of the leaves.

[Vince] So in lesson six, we focused specifically on abiotic factors and how they impact ecosystems and force them to change over time. Specifically, we talked about fire, flooding, erosion, weather, and climate and how fossils are evidence of ecosystems changing over time. In this lesson, your activity was to create an observation log where you looked at several different kinds of abiotic things and how they changed over time.

[Steven] Video seven was broken into two parts. The first part was all about decomposition, decomposers, fungi and bacteria. We learned what they do to the dead stuff in the forest. What you did was take a food scrap, put it in a bag, and observe how it decomposed and then you wrote down your observations in your journal. In the second part of that video, you learned about soil.

What's in it, where it comes from, the different parts. We took a soil sample, put it in a jar with some water, and you observed it. Then, you described where you got that soil from, it's different parts and illustrated a picture of that soil sample. All those things together, they make an ecosystem.

The thing to remember though about an ecosystem or any kind of is that they all have a bunch of parts to them. Um whether it's a solar system, an ecosystem, a sound system, game system, there's not just one thing, there's lots of things. Every kind of system has a bunch of parts that are working together to make something happen.

[Vince] Those parts in an ecosystem are abiotic things and biotic things. Abiotic things like sun, air, water, and soil and biotic things like producers, consumers, and decomposers. Now, how do those interact within the ecosystem? Well, they interact as energy moves through the system. The energy comes from the sun. So, producers use the sun's energy as they go through photosynthesis and convert that energy into food for the consumers.

The consumers eat food, no matter where they get their food, and then the decomposers break down the dead producers and consumers using their energy. [Steven] Now, energy is not the only thing that flows through an ecosystem. Stuff has to grow and to be able to do that, living things need to add to their body. Whether it's a plant or an animal. Um that stuff is matter. Producers, plants, they get the matter to add to themselves from the air, from the water, carbon dioxide, the carbon in the air.

Animals or consumers get the matter that they need to grow from eating either producers or other animals, other consumers and the decomposers, well they get their matter from the dead stuff that they come across on the forest floor.

[sounds of rocks crunching under shoes]

[Vince] So, I was out collecting. What do you think I was collecting? Let's take a look. Got a juniper stem. I've also got some flowers on its stem as well. I've got a dried up dead leaf. Got an old chewed up pine cone. So what else? Uh we've got some juniper berry seeds that are dried up. Got some pieces of bark, mulch, branches, and as I go further in, got some rocks, whole bunch of rocks that I collected and then, at the bottom, I've got some dirt. So, what are all these things?

They're all parts of the ecosystem, aren't they? And each piece represents different parts. So, we've got the dirt and the rocks that represent abiotic things. We've got juniper branch, some flowers, pine cone representing producers. Notice that I don't have anything really here that represents a consumer except the pine cone has been eaten a little bit and you can maybe see the hole inside that pine cone.

Where did that come from? Probably an insect. Something was eating on it. And then we need something to represent decomposers. Well, we've got this dead leaf, it's eventually going to get decomposed. What's all over that dead leaf? That's right, bacteria, which is a decomposer. So, I've got things that represent all parts of an ecosystem.

[Steven] You'll be doing a project and for that project, you'll need to go outside and collect a variety of things just like we saw Vince do. So, those things will need to be some abiotic stuff, producers, something to do with decomposers and something to do with consumers. Um let's take a look at what I did so that you can have a better idea about what I'm trying to explain.

You have to have something in your display that symbolizes a consumer. Well if you have a pet you can give them some pets and you can get some of their fur and place in there. There we have some consumer evidence. We can say that there was an animal sleeping there over the night that left its fur behind. Sometimes they leave behind scat.

Well if you made some fake scat, like we did in video three, you can put that in there. Here's some rabbit scat that we can put in there and remember, it's fake rabbit scat. It was a scat that we made.

Decomposers are also a challenge because we can't usually see them. If you have some mushrooms in the refrigerator, fine. You can put a mushroom in there and that will work perfectly but if you don't, if as long as you find some dead plant stuff, there's like little twigs in here, little dead pieces of leaves and stuff.

Well, if there's dead things there, what also is there? That's right, there's decomposers. So, if we find dead plant stuff, put it in there and you got your decomposers. Now, collecting those things and putting em in a cool little setting, that's kind of the easy part. What you have to do after you get this done is be able to explain the flow of matter and energy through this ecosystem or in other words, how are these different things interacting with one another to keep it moving as a system. Now, here's a challenge.

You're going to also pick three things out of your little ecosystem and one at a time, remove that thing and explain how that's going to affect the ecosystem.

[Vince] We prefer that you not do exactly what we did. Instead, we would like you to be creative and have some fun with developing your model of an ecosystem and how it functions. So, if you can go outside and collect some things, that would be great but if you can't, maybe you can do it inside.

Maybe you can find different parts of an ecosystem within where you live. Perhaps you can make a video or draw pictures. Whatever it is that you decide to do for your project, have some fun with it and be creative. But just remember the four key components of an ecosystem and explaining how matter and energy flow through that ecosystem.

Once you're finished with your project, have an adult share your project on our social media pages or send us an email. We'd love to hear from you.