Mechanisms of Biodiversity in Populations

Exploring change in populations!

Today students learned about biodiversity – genetic variation among and within species – and about how biodiversity in a population can change over time. We talked about the four main mechanisms of population change: mutation (creates variation), gene flow (migration moves variation between populations), genetic drift (random events like natural disasters), and natural selection (when more successful gene variations become more frequent in the population). We also explored some real world examples of changing populations such as antibiotic resistance, Darwin’s finches, and/or lactose tolerance. In our activity, students got a chance to run a simulation of a population and see how different scenarios (representing different mechanisms) affected the population as a whole. For the follow up activity, students are encouraged to design their own dog breed, picking out features they would want in their ideal dog.

Investigando los cambios en la población

Hoy, los estudiantes aprendieron sobre la biodiversidad (variación genética entre especies y dentro de una especie) y sobre cómo puede cambiar con el tiempo. Discutimos sobre los cuatro mecanismos principales de cambios poblacionales: mutación (genera variación), flujo génico (la migración induce variación entre poblaciones), deriva génica (eventos aleatorios como desastres naturales) y selección natural (cuando las variaciones de genes más exitosos son más frecuentes dentro de la población). También hablamos sobre ejemplos reales de cambios poblacionales como la resistencia a antibióticos, los pinzones de Darwin y la tolerancia a la lactosa. Durante nuestra actividad, los estudiantes tuvieron la oportunidad de realizar una simulación computacional y ver cómo diferentes posibles escenarios (de los diferentes mecanismos) afectaron a la población en su totalidad.  En la actividad de seguimiento, a los estudiantes se les incentiva a diseñar su propia raza de perros, con las características que les gustarían en sus perros.


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Phillip has a BS and MS in Biology from Western Washington University, and is currently earning a PhD in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England. His research interests are in tropical rainforest ecology and animal-plant interactions. He will be doing his doctoral dissertation research on tropical seed dispersal ecology in the montane rainforests of Rwanda. Phillip has taught though various adjunct positions at several colleges in New England, teaching biology, ecology, earth science, environmental science, and general science at Babson College, North Shore Community College, Wheelock College, Merrimack College, and Mount Ida College.

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