Scientists are studying the effect of climate change on vegetation in the Alaskan tundra. In this activity, students will analyze data collected from control plots and plots with Open Top Chambers (OTC's) over them. An open-top chamber is like a tiny greenhouse that increases the temperature in a vegetation plot an average of 2-3 degrees, simulating the effects of climate change over the next few years. A Green Seeker is a tool that measures NDVI or normalized difference vegetation index. It is used to determine the density of green vegetation. It ranges between 0 and 1 where zero means no green leaves and 1 means dense green leaves. A negative can indicate water. High NDVI means healthy vegetation while low NDVI means unhealthy vegetation.
At the completion of this lesson, students will understand how scientists measure the greenness of vegetation (NDVI) and how climate change is affecting and will affect the vegetation on the tundra.
Students will need to have a basic understanding of the greenhouse effect and climate change, greenness, NDVI, and how warmer temperatures affect vegetation
- Discuss included materials on climate change, greenness/NDVI with students, share videos and journals for background information.
- Analyze the data provided and have students graph the data.
- Answer the analysis questions.
This is a short activity so can be easily accomplished within a classroom or informal setting.
Journals and Videos can be found at:
- Student success will include them understanding NDVI/greenness and how it is used to assess the productivity of vegetation.
- Students should be able to see the difference between the control plots and Open Top Chamber plots.
Alejandra Martinez, PolarTREC Teacher 2019
Memorial Junior High School
Eagle Pass, TX
ale.martinez.science [at] gmail.com
Next Generation Science Standards
MS-LS1-4: Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation of how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants, respectively.
MS-LS1-4: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
MS-LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-2: Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
MS-ESS3-5: Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills
7th Grade Science
7.10(A) observe and describe how different environments, including microhabitats in schoolyards and biomes, support different varieties of organisms
(B) describe how biodiversity contributes to the sustainability of an ecosystem
7.11 examine organisms or their structures such as insects or leaves and use dichotomous keys for identification
(B) explain variation within a population or species by comparing external features, behaviors, or physiology of organisms that enhance their survival such as migration, hibernation, or storage of food in a bulb
7.13(B) describe and relate responses in organisms that may result from internal stimuli such as wilting in plants and fever or vomiting in animals that allow them to maintain balance.
2(E)plan and implement descriptive, comparative, and experimental investigations, including asking questions, formulating testable hypotheses, and selecting equipment and technology;
(F) collect and organize qualitative and quantitative data and make measurements with accuracy and precision using tools such as data-collecting probes, standard laboratory glassware, microscopes, various prepared slides, stereoscopes, metric rulers, balances, gel electrophoresis apparatuses, micropipettes, hand lenses, Celsius thermometers, hot plates, lab notebooks or journals, timing devices, Petri dishes, lab incubators, dissection equipment, meter sticks, and models, diagrams, or samples of biological specimens or structures;
(G) analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data
3(A) analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student
(C) draw inferences based on data related to promotional materials for products and services
12(E) describe how environmental change can impact ecosystem stability
4(B) assess the role of native plants and animals within a local ecosystem and compare them to plants and animals in ecosystems within four other biomes
(G) predict how species extinction may alter the food chain and affect existing populations in an ecosystem
(H) research and explain the causes of species diversity and predict changes that may occur in an ecosystem if species and genetic diversity is increased or reduced.
7(D) analyze and make predictions about the impact on populations of geographic locales due to diseases, birth and death rates, urbanization, and natural events such as migration and seasonal changes
8(B) explain how regional changes in the environment may have a global effect
(E) analyze the impact of temperature inversions on global warming, ice cap, and glacial melting, and changes in ocean currents and surface temperatures
9(D) describe the effect of pollution on global warming, glacial and ice cap melting, greenhouse effect, ozone layer, and aquatic viability (H) analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming
Earth and Space
Strand 6(C) Relevance. The interacting components of Earth's system change by both natural and human-influenced processes. Natural processes include hazards such as flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, meteorite impacts, and climate change. Some human-influenced processes such as pollution and nonsustainable use of Earth's natural resources may damage Earth's system. Examples include climate change, soil erosion, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss. The time scale of these changes and their impact on human society must be understood to make wise decisions concerning the use of the land, water, air, and natural resources. Proper stewardship of Earth will prevent unnecessary degradation and destruction of Earth's subsystems and diminish detrimental impacts to individuals and society.
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