Students run a simplified computer model to explore how climate conditions can affect caribou, the most abundant grazing animal in the Arctic.
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Educators should point out the relationship between the discussed variables and caribou population: When insect activity increases (i.e. mosquitoes), a loss of blood results in a decrease in caribou population. When snow levels increase, energy consumption increases and inability to escape predators results in a decrease in caribou population.
Educators should explain the relationship between increasing snowfall and arctic warming, which is counter-intuitive and not explained.
Students need to understand percent increase and decrease in order to complete this activity; an example calculation is provided.
Educators could add other resources that explain the effect of insects and snowfall on caribou population and discuss with students. See, for example: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF13/1344.html.
Students explore the causal relationships between insect activity, which is affected by summer temperatures, and winter snow depth on caribou population.
Data output is easily accessible to most middle school students.
Comments from expert scientist: This is a great and exciting activity, although highly simplified it will serve the students and teachers with much needed models. It also introduces students to three major areas of concern- Population biology, phenology and climate change. Data sources or studies referenced in this activity have not been provided.
Suggested assessment is to have students create a board game about seasonal migration with the conditions the caribou might encounter and the positive or negative effects.
Student activity sheet provided is well-constructed and easy to use.
Educator references show a sample data output as well as the results of all nine variable combinations.
Computer model is easy to use.