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What Is Wildlife Ecology?

Activity Description

The lesson begins with a mind dump on a few key terms. The students then work on a diagnostic worksheet. A powerpoint lesson follows that details the history of wildlife ecology, its relationship to ecology (its larger science), and its typical goals. The students then participate in a discussion on what ecology is, and what ecological questions might be asked of urban wildlife populations and communities. They then may share their work on the diagnostic worksheet. Lastly, a short essay question may be given for homework.

Estimated Time of Activity: 1 ½ hours

Activity Objectives

Students will be able do the following as a result of the activity:

  • Be able to describe what wildlife ecology is, in relation to general ecology.
    Be able to give examples of the types of questions wildlife ecologists tend to answer
  • Understand the urban landscape as a wildlife habitat
  • Have thought about about the city as a natural ecosystem (possibly as opposed to a sequestered human space), about the characteristic ecology of city areas, and the factors that might affect it
  • Have provided the teacher with a general sense of their level of biology preparation, their perceptions of “nature”, and “wildlife”, and their values vis-à-vis human-non-human interactions.

Activity Prerequisites


Activity Instructions

1. The class starts with a short activity where students write down what they think of when they hear the words “Wildlife”, “Ecology”, and “Nature.” The class then shares some of them. The teacher can then introduce themselves and explain how they are/have been involved professionally in ecological research, wildlife management, etc.

2. Pair/small group work: pre-diagnostic worksheet

3. The Powerpoint. – Students should be given an introduction to the class (typical assignments, grading, etc.). There will be open notebook tests so students should take good notes. Today, there will be very few notes, and the lecture’s real idea is to sum up the course focus and start a discussion.

4. Class discussion – The ESA definition of ecology is rather dense. However, it is comprehensive and does a good job of illustrating the real breadth of ecology. The discussion’s purpose is to go through each scale of ecological study in a way that they will make sense to the students, rather than being a wall of boring text.

5. Whole group share-out about worksheet – If there is time, the discussion can be extended to talking about student’s answers on their worksheets (though this may be too much talking for them).


No individual student assessments are being made in this introductory lesson. The activities will provide the teacher with information about students’ knowledge and attitudes that will help shape the rest of the course.


Please write a few paragraphs about the following concepts:

- Define the word “natural.” What does it mean to you?

- What is “Nature?” Where do you find nature? Are people a part of the natural world?

- What does it mean when something is “wild?”

- Should humans manipulate or change the environment to help themselves? Should beavers?

- Why do you think I asked you about humans and then about beavers?


Instructor’s Notes

Instructor’s Notes: The content of this lesson has little in the way of hard content that the students need to know back and front. Its main purpose is to show that wildlife ecology is a subdivision of ecology and it focuses largely on managing and manipulating wildlife populations, for a variety of reasons. In addition, it is important to stress that any management action (culling, reintroduction, conservation, etc.) is done based on particular human values, which of course differ from person to person.

The lecture includes the Ecological Society of America's definition of ecology. Ecology is the study of the relationships of living things to each other and their environment

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