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Suburban Ecosystems
Task with Student Directions
Contributed by: Oregon State Department of Education


  • graph paper
  • computer resources (if available)
  • 0.5 meter sampling grids (constructed from wood lath or pvc pipe)


Suburban Biodiveristy

Life on Earth is extremely diverse. Our species shares the planet with upwards of 1,000,000 other species of plants, animals; most still undiscovered. We believe that biological diversity (biodiversity) is a characteristic feature of biology--that our wold, and any other living worlds we might find will typically be populated by lots of different organisms. A fundamental question in modern biology is why there should be as much diversity as we observe, why can it change so much from one location to another, from one environment to another, and how important is it to maintain biodiversity.

In this activity, you will be investigating the biodiversity of an area familiar to you: the suburban lawn landscape. You will be determining the diversity of two different areas and reporting what you find. The activity has two purposes: 1) To give you experience with simple techniques of biodiversity analysis; 2) to give you experience in setting up and carrying out a simple observation experiment; and 3) to show me how well you collect and analyze data and write an experimental report!


  1. You will work alone on this activity.

  2. Select two areas of the lawn around your home or apartment, or a local park or playing field. Make sure that the two areas are distinctly different in some way that might influence biodiversity. Examples might include shade differences, differences in how often the areas are mowed, how often they are watered, how much foot traffic they get, etc.

  3. Develop a hypothesis related to the diversity on the two sites. NOTE: You will turn in a simple description of the differences between the two selected sites and a copy of the hypothesis next class period.

  4. Using 1-square meter sample plots (discussed in class), sample as carefully and accurately as possible the plant and animal biodiversity of the two areas. Record the data as numbers of different plant and animal species names.

  5. Produce a typed experimental report that discusses your hypothesis, your data, and your conclusion. (Did your data support or not support your hypothesis? Why or why not?) The following headings should be used in the report. The report should be between 3 and 5 typed pages long.

    • Title
    • Introduction
    • Procedure
    • Data
    • Analysis and Conclusion


  6. Grading: See attached scoring guide

  7. As homework, prepare a formal lab writ-up as discussed in class. Remember the paper should be typed, 12 pt. font maximum size, 1 inch margins maximum, with the following labeled sections:

    • Title
    • Introduction
    • Procedure
    • Data
    • Analysis and Conclusion

    The final report is due three class periods from the end of the data collection phase.

  8. You will be evaluated based on how well you can plan, carry out, and communicate a research project. The scoring guide is attached.



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