Tag Archives: ecology

Welcome!

Source: WikiJournal of Science

I’ve created this site for my students as well as teachers and learners of science around the world. My intention is to share engaging content-specific resources as well as general guidance for science learning and scientific communication. The tabs across the top of the page take you to pages dedicated to IB Biology, IB Environmental Systems and Societies, and MYP Integrated Sciences. Much of the content on those pages also applies to science classes which are not a part of the International Baccalaureate Organization structure, though the assessment criteria are specific to the IBO’s Diploma Program and the Middle Years Program.

Below, you’ll find a few resources which I think are some of the most valuable for my students, and which I want them to come back to regularly. This is where you’ll find guidance on writing lab reports, creating data tables and graphs for data analysis, and developing presentations to effectively communicate about science. You’ll also find a list of digital resources for science, which I update regularly as I unearth new tools that I think will benefit students’ learning, as well as previous blog entries (from the days when I had more time to write).

How to Write MYP Science Reports

How to Create Scientific Tables and Graphs

How to Effectively Communicate Scientific Knowledge

Digital Resources for Science

Happy learning!

Mr K

Ecology resources for students: Part 1

Good afternoon!

I’m back with another set of bookmarks for students and teachers. Because I’ve taught the IB Environmental systems and societies course for several years, this set of online resources is closest to my heart. Some of these links are here simply because I think they’re cool or fun. Many may also be applicable for studying biology and chemistry as well. Let’s get to it:

Happy learning!

Cheers,

Mr K

Wonderful Amani

tree frog

Hyperolius sp. in Amani Forest Reserve, East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Brad Kremer)

I’m back in Dar after another incredible week at the Emau Hill camp in Amani Nature Reserve, where I got to spend several days hiking in tropical forests, chasing chameleons and tree frogs at night, and exploring the tea estates surrounding the forest reserve.

I owe a big thanks to Roy Hinde and his staff at Wild Things Safaris for their support, extensive knowledge of the local ecosystem, and fine cooking.

This ESP trip is one of my favorites because of its location. The Usambara Mountains are still my favorite part of Tanzania, even after 7 years in this country. I’ve traveled there six different times, and I look forward to going back again because there’s always more to explore and something new to do.

Amani is one of the best places for birding in East Africa. Over 400 species have been recorded within the reserve, owing to its habitat diversity: tropical montane forest, miombo woodland, river valleys, and agricultural fields. During this trip, I spotted 14 bird species new to me, bringing the total number of bird species I have encountered in Tanzania to over 150. Unfortunately, I don’t have a fancy camera with a telephoto lens, which means I don’t have any photos of these new species, but here are my latest observations:

chameleon 1

Three-horned chameleon, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Brad Kremer)

  • Uluguru violet-backed sunbird, Anthreptes neglectus
  • Trumpeter hornbill, Bycanistes bucinator
  • White-tailed crested-flycatcher, Trochocercus albonotatus
  • Augur buzzard, Buteo augur
  • African palm swift, Cypsiurus parvus
  • Lanner falcon, Falco biarmicus
  • Waller’s startling, Onychognathus walleri
  • Yellow-bellied waxbill, Estrilda quartinia
  • Pin-tailed whydah, Vidua macroura
  • Striped kingfisher, Halcyon chelicuti
  • Yellow wagtail, Motacilla flava ‘superciliaris’
  • Mountain buzzard, Buteo oreophilus
  • Red-rumped swallow, Hirundo daurica
  • Martial eagle, Polemaetus bellicosus

All in all, despite averaging over 15 km a day of strenuous walking and hiking, I came back from the trip refreshed and energized because of the chance to get out of the city for a week.   If you have the chance to visit the East Usambara Mountains, please do – you won’t regret it.

 

Excited for ESP

We are rapidly approaching one of my favorite things about my job: the Extended Studies Program, or ESP. ESP is our school’s “week without walls,” when students and teachers leave the comforts of classrooms and campus and travel to different parts of Tanzania to learn about and experience the people and ecology in those locations.

Each year, students in grades 6 through 11 spend a week in one of an awesomely diverse locations around Tanzania:

  • 6th graders go to Zanzibar for an exploration of art and architecture, reef and mangrove ecology, and a history of the east African slave trade.
  • 7th graders spend a week in the Uluguru Mountains on a service learning trip with the Waluguru, the only matrilineal ethnic group in Tanzania.
  • 8th graders venture to Amani Nature Reserve, where they experience the differences between managed and natural forests, as well as night hikes searching for rare species of chameleons and frogs (my personal favorite).
  • 9th and 10th graders have several options for their ESP trips:
    • Mountain biking in the Usambara Mountains
    • Service trips in Arusha or in a Maasai boma
    • Hiking in Lushoto district
    • Trekking across the Ngorogoro Crater Highlands
    • Ecological monitoring at the Makatube Island Marine Reserve
    • Service work on the Chem-Chem school project
    • Morogoro photography
  • IB1 students in grade 11 engage in a field course for biology and geography

In my opinion, these kinds of trips provide the most engaging educational experiences our students will get during the school year. There are no worksheets, no essays, no problems to solve, no presentations to make. Students push themselves, and teachers push them, in ways that are generally not possible during lessons. The interconnectedness of different fields of study becomes evident while out of the classroom – the impact of climate on agriculture, which in turn influences economics, culture and family structure, which then have further knock-on effects on music, literature, and politics.

ESPs are wonderful because of their ‘big picture-ness’.

The Value of Experiential and Outdoor Education

Good afternoon.

I just returned to Dar es Salaam from our school’s Extended Studies Program (ESP) – a “week without walls” – in Amani Nature Reserve of the East Usambara Mountains of Tanzania. The 8th-grade students who accompanied me got to experience one of my favorite parts of this country, a location rich with endemic plant and reptile species, as well as a climate and geography radically different from the hot, steamy coastal zone where we live.

During our time in Amani, we encountered quite a few unique creatures and plants, including forest cobras, Fischer’s chameleon, the Usambara 3-horned chameleon, pygmy chameleons, black-and-white colobus monkeys, 20 species of African violets, army ants, the pregnancy-test frog (really!), tree frogs, colossus crickets, swallowtail butterflies, forest moths, damselflies and dragonflies, trumpeting hornbills, the African fever-tree, and a lot more tree species than I can possibly remember. We also studied craters on the moon and watched Jupiter and its 4 Galilean moons climb across the night sky while we were in camp.

Apart from my personal interest in biodiversity, mountains, astronomy, and forests, there is real value in taking students ‘out there’ to see and experience a part of the world they might not otherwise visit. These kids live fairly posh lifestyles here in Dar, and putting them in tents for a week really stretches some of them. They develop a greater appreciation for the ease and comfort of home, and they confront – briefly – firsthand the challenges of living off the land in tropical Africa.

They also get to do things we can’t do in a classroom: feel the way a chameleon grips your skin as it climbs up your arm, observe the dark bands in Jupiter’s atmosphere, try to decipher the code of flashing firefly lights in pitch darkness, listen to owls call across a primary forest, chase frogs as they try to escape into chilly ponds and streams, and feel the microclimate changes in light, temperature, and humidity between tropical forest and farmland. Adding these first-hand sensory inputs reinforces classroom lessons and clarifies what may be highly abstract concepts for a lot of students who spend most of their days indoors. Plus, they’re just plain fun most of the time (apart from the army ants).

Random Tidbits of Interesting Stuff

Good morning. It’s the last day of September, and if I lived in a temperate area, I would be anticipating the arrival of autumn’s cool weather and colorful leaves. Alas, I live in Dar es Salaam, where it’s hot, and the arrival of October just means it’s getting hotter.

At least the rising heat in Dar is a result of normal seasonal fluctuations caused by Earth’s tilted axis of rotation. That may not be the case for much of Europe and North America, according to a new study from Rutgers University, USA. Jennifer Francis claims that the ‘extreme’ weather events, which are becoming more and more common in North America, are tied to changes in Arctic sea ice levels.

Crazy weather and the jet stream. Image: screen capture from New Scientist.

Crazy weather and the jet stream. Image: screen capture from New Scientist.

And because I always read stories about the science of coffee, you should check out this article from New Scientist, outlining how researchers could use the gene sequence of robusta beans to brew the perfect cup of Joe. I’m not sure I like the idea of a scientifically-produced cappuccino. It still seems like it should remain art rather than science…

I was searching through Graphite.org again over the weekend, and this list of top picks for science apps has been sitting open on my browser since then. I haven’t had a chance to explore these apps in depth, but there seem to be some pretty good ones in this list.

And last but not least, the obligatory astronomy plug: Jupiter’s moon Europa, one of the best candidates for finding life elsewhere in our solar system, is covered by a thick layer of ice that moves around in much the same way that tectonic plates shift on the surface of our home planet.

Link

Tanzania’s Poaching Out of Control

There’s a serious problem with elephant poaching in Tanzania, and it seems to be getting worse by the day. The series of articles below outline some of what’s happening in this beautiful country and just how devastating the Asian demand for ivory is to Tanzania’s natural resources.

Confiscated ivory. Screen capture from photogtraphy4life.com.

Confiscated ivory. Image source: Screen capture from photogtraphy4life.org.

We can consider elephants as natural capital, a resource base which may be replenished given enough time for growth. However, it would appear that current rates of destruction from ivory poaching far outstrip elephants’ natural replacement rate, meaning that overall populations in Tanzania will continue to decline.

Have a read through the following articles, all of which were sent to me by my fellow science teacher, Matt Erdosy, while we wee in classes today. The first one describes the armed robbery of a tourist bus in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area (NCA) in northern Tanzania – a bold move on the poachers’ part, showing that they’re not too concerned about police enforcement here.

The second article details the other end of the ivory trade – the retailers in New York and other large cities who pass along ivory to the final consumers. This article in particular discusses the regulatory shortcomings of laws in the consumer countries.

The final few articles delve into some of the internal politics influencing the failure to effectively police ivory and rhino poaching in Tanzania, including a petition to return a government minister to his role combatting poaching.

At the current rate of killing, there may be no more elephants in Tanzania within a decade. That means no elephants on safari anywhere – not in Serengeti, not in Mikumi, or Selous, Ruaha, Katavi, or Tarangire. Nowhere!