for some research activities of your own? You've seen how
Earthwatch teams of scientist and volunteers collect information
on tropical forest ecosystems and recognized the importance
of each organism that inhabits the forest. You've found
out how scientists track the movements of wild cats in Mexico
and how to spot caterpillars in Costa Rica. But
the best part of science is doing it on your own.
you need to start with is curiosity and four of your five
senses: your eyes, ears, nose, and hands. Some of the best
scientific questions come from careful observations of the
world around us. Good record-keeping is also important so
a notebook and pencil will be handy for keeping track of
all that you see. Finally, have fun, but remember to be
gentle with any organisms that you handle!
Ecosystems Close to Home
a location near you. Choose a specific ecosystem in your
backyard or a nearby park. You can focus on a system as
small as a garden plot or rotting log or as large as a
Information. What types of plants and animals live
there? How do people interact with this natural community?
Write down the things you would like to find out about
your study site. Sometimes it helps to find out what other
people have done before you set out. If you are going
to a local park, they may have a visitors center or some
written information that might help you. They may even
have guides to help you identify some of the plants and
animals you have at your study site.
Make careful observations in your notebook each time you
visit your study site. You may have to visit the same
place several times to get a good idea of what organisms
live there and what is going on.
sure to note the date, time of day, and the weather
each time you visit. Can you think of reasons this
might be important?
do you see? Write down the plants and animals that
you see. Sometimes you might not actually see the
animal, but if you are observant, you will spot some
of the clues they leave behind. Caterpillars, for
example, eat holes in the leaves, fold or bend leaves
to make shelters and even throw their frass
around. What might some other animal clues be?
some photos or draw some pictures of what you see.
for evidence of the relationships between different
organisms? What do they eat? What plants do they use
for shelter? Where are they moving to or from?
you tell how people are interacting with this ecosystem?
Are they walking nearby?
changes might you expect over time? Can you think
of reasons why? Each time you visit, be sure to record
the date, time, and weather along with your new observations.
How can you find out more about these ecosystems and how
they are changing as a result of human activity or other
circumstances? Make a list of all the possible places
and ways you might find this information. Could you ask
a person, go to the library, search the Internet?
your experience. Science is also about sharing what you
learn. You might want to just keep your notebook for yourself,
but you might also consider making a poster, model, report,
or other project to share with your school, park, or family.
You may also find that when you finish your initial study,
you have a whole list of new questions to answer about
your study site!