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Ecology Vocabulary Exercise

Read What is Ecology about anyway? | Second Resource - General Ecology website

1. Read the definitions.

2. Categorize a species found in a field, fencerow or meadow in your state or region.

Species (organism level) - An organism which has certain characteristics of a given population and is potentially capable of breeding with the same population defines a member of a species. This definition does not apply to asexually reproducing forms of life such as Monera, Protista, etc. Species can be considered the lowest (most specific) area of biological classification, but lower groupings are sometimes employed (e.g., subspecies, variety, race).

Population - This term applies to organisms of the same species which inhabit a specific area.

Community - A community is an aggregate of populations of different plant and animal species occurring within a given area.

Habitat - A habitat is an area where a specific animal or plant is capable of living and growing; usually characterized by physical features, or the presence of certain animals or plants.

Niche - This term applies to an organism's physical location and, most importantly, functional role (much like an occupation; what the organism specifically does) within an ecosystem.

Ecosystem - As defined previously, a functioning natural unit with interacting biotic and abiotic components in a system whose boundaries are determined by the cycles and flux of energy, materials and organisms.

Ecotone - An ecotone is a boundary ecosystem, specifically the ecosystem which forms as a transition between two adjacent systems. It may possess characteristics of both bordering ecosystems, while developing a suite of its own characteristics. Examples: Riparian zones, coastal forests.

Biosphere - This is the surface zone of the planet earth, extending from within the earth's crust up into the atmosphere, within which all known life forms exist.

Example: Ecological Levels
Species: Cervus elaphus (Roosevelt elk)
Population: The sum total of all the elk in a given herd (e.g., migrating through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem)
Community: The elk, and other populations associated with them (e.g., wolf, grizzly, bison)
Habitat: The place where these elk live -- the open timberlands of Yellowstone NP
Niche: Primarily browses on shrubs, broadleafs, and new growth of conifers
Ecosystem: Yellowstone NP and surrounding forest, shrubland and grassland, extending to the limit of the elk range (if we define it from the elk's perspective)

From EPA Watershed Academy - Ecology - The Biological Setting - Table of definitions page 7.

Use this vocabulary - Categorize a species found in a field, meadow or fencerow in your state or region.

right arrow Species -

right arrow Population -

right arrow Community -

right arrow Habitat -

right arrow Niche -

right arrow Ecosystem -

How would the loss of this species impact the ecosystem?


bird Fields, Meadows, and Fencerows: Habitat / Mammals / Birds / Insect - Butterflies / Trees & Plants / Conclusion

Food web relationships - Predator or prey? | Food Web Activity | Digital Science Project

Bats are our Buddies | Screech Owls Activity | EcoCommunity Status in your state | Fields, Meadows & fencerows photos

Citizen Scientist - Collect some data | Collecting data Activity doc. / pdf

Wildflowers info | Milkweeds & Monarch Butterfly Mania | Map and Inventory Trees in your Community

Firefly Watch - fun project | Pennsylvania HS Envirothon | Plan a School Habitat Garden Project

Water & Watershed Studies | Plants and People | Nature | Habitat Garden

Pennsylvania Environment and Ecology Education | PA HS Envirothon


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Updated 10/2008 / 11/2013
2000 Cynthia J. O'Hora This project may be freely use in a nonprofit setting.

tree icon Save a tree - use a Digital Answering format - Highlight the text of the title, directions and questions. Copy the text. Paste it in a word processing document. Save the document in your folder. Enter your name and the date at the top of the document. Answer on the word processing document in an easily read, contrasting color or font. (No yellow, avoid artistic fonts like: Symbols, broad font, blackmoor, & dear font fonts). Save frequently as you work. Submit your digital answer sheet via email or drop box. Make Your Own Printed answer sheet.

The goal of this web project is to inform people through research and employing higher order thinking skills. This study unit encourages the use of free Internet information resources. Activities often develop writing, information literacy, technology and mathematics skills.

Pennsylvania Science Anchors
S.A.2. Processes, Procedures, and Tools of Scientific Investigations

S.A.3. Systems, Models, and Patterns

Science NetLinks Benchmark 5 - The Living Environment
How living things function and interact. A. Diversity of Life
"One of the most general distinctions among organisms is between plants, which use sunlight to make their own food, and animals, which consume energy-rich foods. Animals and plants have a great variety of body plans and internal structures that contribute to their being able to make or find food and reproduce. All organisms, including the human species, are part of and depend on two main interconnected global food webs."

D. Interdependence of Life - " In all environments freshwater, marine, forest, desert, grassland, mountain, and others organisms with similar needs may compete with one another for resources, including food, space, water, air, and shelter.