Population: Fishing for Answers
Today, students learned all about populations. We began by discussing world population and how it has increased from 1 billion to 7 billion people in just over 200 years. Students correctly identified China (1.3 billion) and India (1.2 billion) as the most populous countries in the world. USA ranked 3rd at 300 million.
Students learned about two major concepts in population ecology – carrying capacity and the Tragedy of the Commons. Carrying capacity is the maximum number of individuals that an area can support without exhausting or depleting the available resources.
We also explored the Tragedy of the Commons in a game where students grouped together in villages that survived by fishing. Inevitably, villagers who caught the maximum number of fish allowed each year ended up not leaving enough fish in the pond to reproduce to provide food for the next year. Villagers starved and villages collapsed until some students realized that if they fished enough to survive, but not enough to deplete the fish resource, the game could continue indefinitely – or as we say in ecology – sustainably – for many generations.
We also played “Oh Deer!” and plotted the growth chart of deer population. The students were shocked to see that the population of deer dropped drastically when all the resources depleted.
We watched a great video about population that you can review here. http://www.npr.org/2011/10/31/141816460/visualizing-how-a-population-grows-to-7-billion
Watch this short video to find out more about Tragedy of the Commons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZDjPnzoge0