Ecology Comic Strip

Intro: Now that we have learned a little bit about species populations and how plants/animals
interact with one another, it is time to see what happens when a species relationship is
interrupted. For an example, let’s take the classic example of sea otters along the California
coast. Sea otters were hunted for their fur in the 1700-1800’s and this caused a massive
population decline across their range of the west coast of the united states. This crash in their
population might not seem like a big deal, but sea otters eat sea urchins and sea urchins eat kelp.
Giant kelp beds are home to many different species of animals and provide special habitat that is
extremely important. When the otter population crashed there were few otters left eating sea
urchins. This allowed the sea urchin population to rise and they increased the amount of kelp that
was eaten. Over time this had massive effects on the kelp beds along the west coast of the united
states. With the kelp beds dwindling, other species suffered because they had nowhere for them
to live and reproduce. Luckily sea otters became protected in 1911 and their populations began to
recover. While their population is still not as large as it once was and there are lasting
consequences from reducing their population so greatly, otter numbers are on the rise and kelp
forests have recovered greatly.
Your turn:
1. Here is the population data for sea otters from 1983-2009. Take this information and
graph it using the App Chart Builder on your iPads. In order for otters to be delisted from
the endangered species list, their populations must reach and remain around 3090
individuals for three years in a row. Using your knowledge of population graphs interpret
your graph to answer the following questions. Is there an area of the graph where otters
are experiencing exponential growth and how can you tell? Have they reached their
carrying capacity? What evidence on the graph shows they have either reached or have
not reached their carrying capacity? Draw what you think a completed logistic growth
curve for sea otters would look like over your printed out otter population graph.

Year Population (number of
1985 1400
1988 1650
1991 1800
1994 2250
1997 2200
2000 2150
2003 2200
2006 2600
2009 2650

2. Then play Habitactics and try to
keep your ecosystem from crashing. This will be a great way to learn how populations
affect the community as a whole and give you ideas for your project.
3. Then research a community of species and choose a species within that community and
“reduce” its population. This can be a “real worl” population problem or one you have
created. Then research what might happen to the surrounding community if this species
population drops drastically. Once you have a good idea about what will happen to both
the species and the community, make a comic strip explaining the situation. Make sure it
is detailed, but remember the ideas have to be condensed to 4-6 pictures. Also create a
two page explanation of your research detailing the problem and possible solutions to the
population reduction. Make sure you incorporate the answers to the questions listed
below in the explanation.

Comic Life App on the classroom iPads to create the comic strip

This is an excellent site to find species that are threatened or endangered.

This is a Khan academy lesson on populations and communities. It is a great place to start if you
need some ideas or some help figuring out how populations interact.

Questions to consider: Is there a cascading effect on the community? Is the impact large or
small? Is the species a producer, consumer, or apex predator? What is the cause of the population
reduction? Can the population recover? What will happen if this species goes extinct? Do
humans gain something from having this species in the environment? Are there any beneficial
outcomes to the species population reduction?

Scoring Guide Points Points
Possible Earned
Graph showing otter population 5
is correct with logistic growth
curve drawn on top
Comic strip is complete, has 4-6 5
pictures and is thoughtful,
detailed and explains the species
population and surrounding
community for the comic strip.
Paper answers all the questions 5
listed on project
Paper focuses on the species 5
population and surrounding
community chosen for comic