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Education
Population Growth
 

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Learning Objectives

At the end of this lab, students should know...

What is a population?

A population is a group of individuals of a single species living in an area at the same time.

What is population ecology?

Population ecology is the study of how population size and age distribution change over time through interactions with the environment and individuals from their own species as well as others.

What is a carrying capacity?

The carrying capacity is the maximum population size allowed by the resources in a habitat.

What are exponential and logistic growth models?

Exponential growth models are independent of population density and follow a J-shaped curve. Logistic growth is limited by carrying capacity therefore depends on the population density. Since population growth slows down near carrying capacity, logistic growth curves are S-shaped.

What is the importance of growth models?

Mathematical models of population growth allow estimation of population sizes in various situations. For instance, we can calculate changes in predator and prey populations. Moreover, they are useful to estimate how populations will fare when outside influences (habitat loss, climate change, etc.) affect variables such as growth rate. In addition, scientists can calculate growth of invasive species as well as how native species will be affected.

List of Materials

  • Computer with spreadsheet capability
    10

Lab Prep

  1. Preparation for the Population Growth Computer Simulation
    • For this exercise, ensure that spreadsheet software is installed on student computers before starting the lab. NOTE: The instructions for this lab are written for Microsoft Excel, but Google Sheets is a free online alternative that can be used with minor adaptations to the instructions described here.
    • Throughout this procedure, remind the students to frequently save their spreadsheet files to avoid loss of data.

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