2.1 Whitebark Pine Trees and Clark's Nutcrackers

Mutualism, Climate Change and Ecological Studies

This exercises combines many aspects of the ESS course. I use it when we study biotic interactions, in this case mutualism, but it is also a great introduction to the multiple and complex impacts of climate change. I have used it as a homework exercise and as a lesson for when I am absent (cover lesson) and it works well as students can be independent in their learning.

The topic gives an interesting angle to the significant idea, "Populations change and respond to interactions with the environment."

Here is a link to the Teacher Only page for notes on this task.

Student Task:

Part 1

Read this article from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and watch the videos embedded in the article.

There may be a lot of new words, both scientific and just English words that you may not know. Make a vocabulary list of the words.

Make notes on the article focussing on the following prompts for your graphic organiser:

  • Sampling strategies for studying Clark's Nutcrackers
  • Keystone species - Clark's Nutcrackers and Whitebark Pine
  • Problems with Whitebark Pine and Nutcrackers
  • Obligate Mutualist
  • Human Causes
  • Eco-restoration vs Nutcracker Help
  • Travelling Nutcrackers
  • Role of Douglas Fir and Management Plans

You will need to move backwards and forwards in between these headings to collect your notes.

Part 2

Watch the short videos from HHMI and Crossing Boundaries on climate change in Yellowstone National Park

Now finish off with this TED-ed lesson on the topic. The questions you should think about are (created by Jim MacInster using TEDEd):

  1. The Clark’s Nutcracker relies on what species of tree?
  2. How is climate change contributing to the decline in Whitebark pine trees?
  3. Why does Taza use radio telemetry to track Clark’s Nutcrackers?
  4. Why is Taza’s research so important?
  5. What role does the Clark’s Nutcracker serve for the Whitebark Pine trees?

For a detailed introduction to the study of the mutualism between Whitebark Pine Trees and Clark's Nutcrackers see this article from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology which has embedded videos. 

Watch this short video from HHMI about the impact of climate change on Yellowstone National Park. (about 7.5 minutes)

Now watch this short video about the work of a scientist investigating these interactions. (about 12 minutes)

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