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Ecological and Evolutionary Response of At-Risk Populations to Global Warming



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  • Address a complex, multi-dimentional question
  • Use time both in lecture and lab
  • Will give you skills for a career in life science










Historical, Political and economic layers to The question:


"... the [legislative] measure chips away at several leftover Bush administration policies. It clears the way for the Obama administration to reverse a rule issued late in the Bush administration that says greenhouse gases may not be restricted to protect polar bears from global warming. Another Bush administration rule that reduced the input of federal scientists in endangered species decisions can also be quickly overturned without a lengthy rule-making process."

from: Congress Sends Huge Spending Bill To Obama and for more see Senate Clears Way To Reverse Polar Bear Rule.   ---, March 5, 2009


Due to impending Obama policy changes, scientist may find new support for research into areas such as endangered species responses to global warming.  The political hope driving this course of action is to use the Endangered Species Act to regulate through litigation the emission of green house gases.











The question


How will at-risk populations respond ecologically and evolutionarily to global warming?












Methods of inquiry:

  1. Field research on ecological and evolutionary response of local species and populations along Bear Trail
  2. Research on student directed questions related to global warming
  3. Lectures on Ecology, Evolution and Earth Systems











overview of Field research Project

Gather evidence and file a report for federal, state and  local Tribal leaders addressing the effects of global warming on endangered and economically important species like;

·         Coho Salmon

·         Scott Bar and Siskiyou Mountain Salamander

·         Yreka Phlox 

·         Link for a more detailed list of imperiled local species



Part of this assignment will be to test some of predictions stated by KS Wild by setting up long-term monitoring sites starting with Bear Trail on College of the Siskiyou campus.


Goals, Learning Objectives and Methods:

1.      This COS assignment will model the type of research gathered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), US Forestry Service (USFS), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) .  Empirical evidence will be gathered on how at-risk populations respond ecologically and evolutionarily to global warming.  These data will be compiled to present to federal and local leaders, who can use the scientific evidence to mold policy over green house gas emissions, water and fishing rights and other important ecosystem health initiatives.

2.      The research will begin a long term monitoring project, where a cadre of COS students will be the producers of actionable findings. (Pedagogical Note: It can be scaled up or down depending on class sizes.  In the very least this becomes a monitoring project in which students learn community ecology methods and theories, while gaining field experience, data analysis and scientific communication skills.)

3.      Set up initial field sites along Bear Trail to learn methodology and pilot experimental design.

4.      Methods to be adapted from:  Franklin, W. (2008). Effects of Invasive species on Plant Community Structure. American Biology Teacher: Vol. 70, (8): p479-482.













First Assignment (Step 1): Developing a Question.

The first assignment will be due in one week.  Read over the information from the following web sites hyperlinked below, although you are not limited to web sources. Then write a blog response in the Forum below addressing the following:

1.      What aspect of global warming would you most like to learn about?

2.      Why is this issue important ecologically, historically or economically?

3.      What new data should be collected to help address the issue?


Background Links on Global Warming

·         Interactive Map from National Geographic on Possible Effects of Global Warming

·         Interactive Precipitation and Temperature Map form National Geographic

·         Predictions from KS Wild (Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center)













Lectures will use example evidence from the textbook, Kimball’s Online Biology and “The Beak of the Finch” by Jonathan Wiener to address: 


Species Concepts



Population Genetics

Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium

Change over time of phenotypic/genotypic distributions in populations

Evolutionary Response of Darwin’s Finches to Prolonged Drought












Ecosystem Processes

Primary productivity

Trophic structure

Energy and nutrient cycling and flux


Ecosystem Structure

Species Composition

Species Diversity which can be calculated by measuring:

Species richness

Species abundance

Species distribution

Population size, range, age structure and phenotypic/genotypic distributions



Ecosystem Services and Function

The inherent value of diversity and life

The aesthetic value of wilderness

The economic value of ecosystem functions, like:
  • Water purification
  • Generation and preservation of fertile spawning grounds in rivers
  • Generation and preservation of fertile soils
  • Pollination of crops and natural vegetation
  • Control of agricultural pests











Related links and REFERENCES

US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
US Fish and Wildlife Servise (USFWS)
US Forest Servise (USFS)
Climate change and wetlands
Endemic Shasta snow-wreath (Neviusia cliftonii). 
Yreka phlox
Bogg's Lake Hedge-Hyssop
Official Site of the Karuk Tribe



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