Interesting ways of using Mesocosms

Saturday 19 April 2014

Since the publication of the new IB guide I've been puzzling over Mesocosms. The guide says, "Setting up sealed mesocosms to try to establish sustainability. (Practical 5)" So what is a mesocosm exactly? How can it be made more worthwhile than a simple middle school science club project?

The IB are not the first to think of making a mesocosm. Bill LatiBill Latymer and his Mesocosmmer set one up in his living room in 1960 and hasn't watered it since 1973. See the whole story here.

There are other places where mesocosms have been developed, like NASA's space propulsion laboratory or the University of Birmingham who are using mesocosm experiments in drought research.

For $50 you can buy one from Abundant Earth, if you are lucky enough to live in the USA. Ekocentrum in Gothenburg, Sweden, has bottled ecosystems dated 2002 just lying around. The British Ecological Society have a great information booklet on keeping brine shrimps in bottles and there are hundreds of other suggestions around. One idea that particularly caught my attention was keeping Cabbage white butterflies in the lab. Not quite a sealed ecosystem but trying to establish sustainable.

Mesocosm experiments have become a valuable tool to circumvent the shortcomings of correlational studies in ecological research.   There is plenty of scope for using this apparently simple middle school science club project idea as a great learning activity in IB Biology. Read more about ecological research using mesocosms, or for more ideas see my page of selected weblinks of mesocosm ideas.


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