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Improving on Nature?


Dennis Kingery
Biology Department
Metropolitan Community College


In 1958, black bass were introduced into Lake Atitlan in the highlands of western Guatemala as a way to attract tourism and boost the local economy, but unforeseen complications resulted in an ecological disaster. Developed for an introductory course in biology, this case study first casts students in the role of the local population at that time and asks them to judge the proposal to introduce the new species of fish. The students then review the ensuing events from a historical perspective based on additional information they receive from the instructor in a progressive disclosure format.

  • Explain the risks of the introduction of alien species into an ecosystem.
  • Identify the roles of human activity in the extinction of the giant grebe.
  • Describe the effects of environmental change on the Lake Atitlan ecosystem.
Keywords: Black bass; largemouth bass; Micropterus salmoides; giant grebe; Podylimbus gigas; species introduction; alien species; extinction; ecosystem; Lake Atitlan; Guatemala; Maya
Topical Area: Social issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted, Jig-Saw, Public Hearing, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Ecology   Environmental Science   Biology (General)   Aquaculture  
Date Posted: 05/14/03
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Despite the fact that we are in the UK, the group of ecology students entered into this case study wholeheartedly.

The progressive disclosure of the Historical Updates enabled them to build towards the learning outcomes of their “Understanding Ecology and Conservation” unit.

As our sessions are 90 minutes, we introduced the case study in the latter part of the first session (after a previous topic had been debriefed) and covered the Historical Updates in the whole of session 2, because the groups got VERY involved!

David Funge
Department of Biology
Bedford College
Bedford, UK

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