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Kill the Aliens: Controlling Leafy Spurge

Co Authors:

Mary Ann L. McLean
Natural and Mathematical Sciences
St. Mary’s University

Gary T. Grothman
Natural and Mathematical Sciences
St. Mary’s University


The majority of people in the world interact with nature in an urban setting. Management issues in urban parks tend to be more challenging than in “natural” parks for a variety of reasons, including heavy use, proximity to housing, local advocacy, protection of native species, and the common inclusion of water bodies such as streams, ponds or lakes. In this case study, students explore such complexities by focusing on the invasion of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.) in Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Canada. Students research the most appropriate weed control methods for this urban context and share their findings by using the jigsaw method. An important aspect of this case is the use of grey literature (academic literature informally published) and students will need to evaluate various web sources during their research. The case is appropriate for courses in introductory biology, ecology or high school AP biology. Students should have some prior understanding of ecological concepts including competition, predation, herbivory, plant life cycles, and invasive species.

  • Distill significant information from grey literature.
  • Evaluate the quality of web sources.
  • Develop expertise in a topic.
  • Share expertise with other experts in related but different topics.
  • Understand the complexity of factors involved in controlling pest species.
  • Critically examine the pros and cons of different approaches to a real-world problem.
  • Negotiate to reach consensus on complex issues.
Keywords: Invasive species; urban parks; park management; leafy spurge; Euphorbia esula; grey literature; conservation; weed; weed control; parks; Fish Creek Park; Calgary; Canada
Topical Area: Ethics, Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Scientific argumentation, Social issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Discussion, Jig-Saw
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Botany / Plant Science   Ecology   Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management  
Date Posted: 4/3/2015
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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