That's Predictable

    That's Predictable

    PDF of This Lesson


    To predict how an ecosystem will change as a result of major changes in the abiotic and/or biotic factors.


    In this lesson, students will be asked to research and report on ecosystem responses that occur as a result of biotic or abiotic changes in an aquatic environment.

    See discussion questions for background information and leading questions to help guide classroom discussion about biotic and abiotic factors of an ecosystem.

    The lesson is designed in three parts:  

    1. A classroom activity to discuss biotic and abiotic change in an ecosystem;
    2. a follow up STEM activities, discussion and presentation of results
    3. and watershed connections.

    Materials Needed:


    Classroom Activity:

    Envirothon 20111. Ask the students to review all the abiotic and biotic factors in an aquatic ecosystem. Optional: Refer to the activities What’s in the Water?, Who Lives in the Water? and Riparian Review

    2.  Discuss the role that these factors play in the environment.  Have the students discuss how a change in abiotic or biotic factors would affect the aquatic ecosystem (see
    discussion question #2). 

    3.  Explain to the students that they will choose a change in an abiotic or biotic factor in an aquatic ecosystem and explore it further in the form of a written paper, presentation or other format of the teacher’s choice.

    4.  To help the students get started, choose a topic and, with the class, form a hypothesis of what might happen to the ecosystem as a result of the abiotic or biotic change. Suggested points you may want to include:

    • Geographic scale of problem – e.g., watershed scale vs. backyard scale.
    • Magnitude of problem – e.g., slumping of entire hill slopes vs. loss of banks in small sections.
    • Reversibility of changes – e.g., loss of topsoil from a major avalanche vs. loss of vegetation in an avalanche.
    • Driving factors for changes – e.g., erosion from a construction site.
    • Natural forces – e.g., floods, tornadoes, droughts, global warming.
    • Economics – e.g., developers of housing developments or logging/mining interests.
    • Politics or regulations – e.g., requirements by law.
    • Cost/benefits – i.e., who or what will benefit, who will pay (consider costs and benefits to society, to individuals, to ecosystem functions or to different components of ecosystems). 

    Construction5.  With the class, develop a list of sources where they will be able to find more information. Suggested sources might be:

    • Library
    • Newspaper and magazine articles
    • Scientific Journals
    • State and local agency professionals (Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Forest Service, County Extension Office, etc)
    • University researchers or professionals (such as consultants) working in these areas
    • Watershed coordinators (for a list of watershed coordinators in Utah visit the Utah Clean Water website. Click on the tab "Find Your Watershed", select the watershed, click on Contacts.)

    6.  Let students pick topics or assign topics to students.  As students (or groups of students) are exploring their topic, have them complete the student research page.  Students should use the information they collect to complete a written paper or oral presentation.

    STEM Activity:


    1. Provide opportunities for students to share their work.

    • Hold a debate for or against each of the changes in abiotic or biotic factors (Biodiversity Debate)
    • Create a class website or blog
    • Plan a research symposium where students share their work with the class.  This can also be done in the evening where others from the community are invited 

    2.  Have the students take action in their community on one of the topics they researched. For example: 

    • Work with local agencies to restore a section of stream.  Contact your local Conservation District, County Extension office, or USU Water Quality Extension for current restoration projects
    • Conduct a service project (e.g., stream clean-up)
    • Educate the public about the issue at a public forum or through educational materials at a public location (e.g., park or mall)
    • Participate in volunteer monitoring or other programs (see SciStarter for projects you can join)

    3. Have students interpret maps with water quality data. These maps were created by teachers involved in CMaP. Students could also monitor water quality data and use GPS to create their own maps.

    Watershed Connections

    Watersheds are natural outdoor laboratories. Use the map below to find the watershed you teach in. Use the watershed connections in the Stream Side Science lessons to learn how you can use specific stream locations, local data sources, local contact and other information in your area to make the Stream Side Science experience more relevant to your students.   
    What watershed do you live in?
    If you live in Utah, the map below shows all of the watersheds that either drain into or out of Utah.
    OR go to Surf Your Watershed to locate you watershed anywhere in the U.S. 

    Utah Watersheds


    Curriculum and Teacher Materials 

    Core Alignments by Grade:

    Materials and Worksheets: 

    Worksheets and More: