Estimating Orthopteran Population

Students in A.P. Environmental Science class partake in a mark and recapture activity. On the first day of the activity students traveled to the Conserve School sledding hill where they captured orthopterans (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and locusts) and marked them with a small dot of non-toxic paint. A few days later the students returned to the spot and recaptured orthopterans. By dividing the number of orthopterans originally marked by the percentage of those found marked in the recaptured group the students are able to estimate the total orthopteran population in the area.

In the video, you can see our students on a small section of campus that includes an ephemeral pond and a hill and that was disturbed by construction. Once the school buildings were completed, the area was planted with prairie grasses and wildflowers native to the Midwest. Located just behind the school garden, this open, natural area is often used for science projects, seed collection, star-gazing, and, in the winter, sledding.

The mark and recapture lab gives students the opportunity to learn and practice a population estimation method used commonly in wildlife research. This activity provides a great combination of outdoor activity, college-preparatory learning, and just plain fun. If you like the outdoors as much as our students and staff do, you really can’t beat running around in tall grass on a beautiful afternoon with a butterfly net and a paint pot!

Does your school do something similar?

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