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Mark L. Kuhlmann
Associate Professor
Department of Biology
Hartwick College
Fish as Fertilizer: The Impacts of Salmon on Coastal Ecosystems

In this case study, students examine data from a number of published studies of the effects of Pacific salmon on freshwater and riparian ecosystems. The case focuses on the interesting phenomenon of spawning salmon acting as nutrient conveyor belts, transporting nutrients from the ocean upstream into freshwater spawning areas and, in some cases, even onto land, reversing the more-typical downstream movement of nutrients. As students work at analyzing and interpreting graphical data, they will also increase their understanding of the principles of biogeochemical cycling and gain an appreciation for the interconnectedness of different types of ecosystems. The topic is appropriate for any course covering ecosystem ecology including, for example, general ecology, freshwater or marine ecology, and environmental science.

Search for the Missing Sea Otters: An Ecological Detective Story

Using a progressive disclosure format, this case study teaches students how to apply ecological principles to a real-life ecological problem, namely, the decline in sea otter populations in Alaska. Students interpret data from graphs and tables and practice developing testable hypotheses as they work in groups to solve the mystery of the “missing” sea otters.  Designed to serve as a framework for teaching an ecology module to first-year biology majors, the case introduces students to basic concepts of population and community ecology.