Life Science: EcoColumn
As one of the most encompassing levels of organization in the living world, an ecosystem is defined as a community of organisms along with their physical environment. The EcoColumn (see building instructions) is designed to model an ecosystem on a small scale. Its components include a terrestrial habitat with a compost unit and an aquatic habitat. We built ours by establishing a TerrAqua Column first and then adding to it—you can build yours the same way or as a complete system from the start.
The Life Science EcoColumn is designed as a study system for concepts addressed in the videos for Session 7 (Energy Flow in Communities) and Session 8 (Material Cycles in Ecosystems). This system provides opportunities to understand how energy is brought into the living world and transferred through food chains, and how the living and nonliving environments are intimately connected through cycles of matter.
Life Science has suggested several activities for the EcoColumn. “Taking Inventory” and “Pondering Change” (also suggested for the TerrAqua Column) provide baseline data for studying the system over time. “What’s on the Menu” examines the energy sources of the organisms in the EcoColumn, which makes it possible to construct a food web. “Basically, I’m a Fungi” reveals a portion of the food web that usually remains unseen in natural settings: the yeasts and molds that act as decomposers. “When It Rains…” turns the EcoColumn into a model of the water cycle. And “Decomposition Tea” compares the growth of plants in distilled water and fertilizer solution versus water that has flowed through the terrestrial and compost components of the EcoColumn.
For more background information and additional activity ideas, you can visit the Bottle Biology Web site at www.bottlebiology.com.