Population: Fishing for Answers
Yesterday, Cunningham students learned about populations. We began by discussing how population increases or decreases, and that the human population 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.
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.
Here is a great video about the growth of the human population that you can review . 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
Here are some snapshots of students exploring ideas of population by playing the fishing game (it’s not so easy to catch fish with chopsticks!).