We spend an entire quarter discussing microbe, plant, and animal diversity. Why do we do this? Characterizing the vast diversity of organisms on this planet is critical to understanding the role of biodiversity in maintaining healthy ecosystems, and the effects of species loss on our planet’s health. This assignment is to help you understand what biodiversity is, and to practice answering the somewhat nebulous question — why is biodiversity important and critical to study?
You will develop your understanding of what biodiversity represents and how we characterize the importance of biodiversity by: 1) completing a brief writing prompt
The process of writing, receiving feedback, and revising is central to scientific practice. Research also demonstrates that it supports more effective learning and application of scientific concepts.
PART 1: Head out into the Santa Barbara area and find an animal that you don’t often see. The animal must NOT be a pet or a human. Snap a picture of your animal and take note of when/where you discovered it. Figure out what Phylum the animal belongs to by Monday, November 22nd at 11:45 PM.
PART 2: Complete the writing prompt below and upload to Eli Review by Wednesday, November 24th at 11:45 PM.
You are an animal biologist and are gearing up to conduct diversity surveys in the Santa Barbara area. These surveys require identifying and counting animal species found in specific areas around town to characterize local biodiversity. Before you start your controlled surveys, you decide to spend a few days observing animals in the area to get a sense of what variety of species you are likely to come across. To document these species, you snap a photo and keep notes of when and where you found them.
While out in the field searching for as many different animal species as you can, you are approached by a journalism student preparing a story for the UCSB Current about research on campus. You get to talking about your study and the journalism student asks to feature your work in her article. As part of the article, she asks you to prepare a brief explanation of why you are studying local biodiversity and why the broader UCSB community should care about your study.
Your explanation should be 350-400 words (about one page). This first draft should take about 60-90 minutes to write. Your role here is to write as an informed biologist to a broad community of students/profs/staff with various expertise and backgrounds. Your language should be straightforward and as uncomplicated as possible. You should explain the vocabulary you think is critical as the bolded words in sections of your textbook does.
Your explanation should cover the following key sections and points:
Introduce the topic of biodiversity and provide an example of the importance of one of the animals you discovered in your pre-surveys. This section should include:
1. A definition of biodiversity (1-2 sentences).
2. Use the categories of species values to explain the value of biodiversity (2-3 sentences). Species with direct use values are those that provide various goods or products directly to humans (typically linked to economic value) such as food, materials, and medicine.
Species with indirect use values include those with cultural and spiritual value and ecological value. Cultural and spiritual value represents species that inspire and stimulate technological innovations, contribute to recreation, are intrinsically beautiful/strong/scary/intriguing, or play a role in literature or myths. Ecological value represents the role that species play in their ecosystem — this can be the most difficult to identify and represents how a species contributes to and supports other species in its habitat. For example, does the species provide an “ecosystem service” such as pollination? Does it reduce pest populations? Aid in water purification?
3. An explanation of the indirect and/or direct value of one of the animals you found while conducting your pre-surveys. For this, head out into SB and find an animal that is NOT a pet or a human. It can be an animal that you find on campus, on the beach, close to your home – anywhere local! It could be an animal that UCSB students commonly see, or a rarer species.
Make it personal by describing the importance of biodiversity in our backyard. This section should include:
4. A description of the specific indirect and/or direct costs associated with losing your example animal species from the local ecosystem.
5. A conclusion in which you imagine how the broader UCSB community may be impacted by the loss of this species from the Santa Barbara area. This will help to make your article personal and relevant to the community.
Additional OPTIONAL reading that provides background on what biodiversity is and why it is important:
Article from the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/12/what-is-biodiversity-and-why-does-it-matter-to-us
Article from the American Museum of Natural History: https://www.amnh.org/research/center-for-biodiversity-conservation/about-the-cbc/what-is-biodiversity
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