How to Incorporate Experiential Learning in the Classroom to Address Complex Problems in Ecology

By David Deslauriers

An alternative to the use of live predators in the context of predator–prey feeding relationships for educational purposes is presented here. A group of 18 students was asked to maneuver a fictional predator (pipette), which was used to capture age-0 Shovelnose Sturgeon under different densities (1–30 sh per 40-L tank) and temperature treatments (13°C, 18°C, and 24°C). The data were then used to estimate the functional feeding response coefficients typical of a type II curve.

The hope is that students will view predator–prey dynamics or any ecological pattern/process through a different light and will be able to share their experience in order to gain insightful information (e.g., predatory avoidance/susceptibility behavior) pertaining to the prey under study.

Results indicated that the temperature treatments did not have a significant influence on the magnitude of the coefficients. However, the use of a fictional predator provided useful insight into behaviors (fish captured head first and off the bottom of the tank) that were more likely to lead to a predation event. This exercise also limited the mortality of organisms typically associated with these types of trials. Conclusions should provide students with a mechanistic understanding of predator–prey interactions by means of an experiential learning experience.

Members click below for the March 2017 Fisheries magazine’s complete issue. Non-members, join here.

This content is for members only. Please login.