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Grazing in Vernal Pools

Restoration Management Decisions


Akasha M. Faist
Department of Animal and Range Sciences
New Mexico State University


This case study in restoration ecology utilizes two peer reviewed articles that ask a similar question about the effects of grazing in temporary wetlands, yet the articles have different conclusions about these effects.  Students are challenged to think critically about how land management decisions, especially ecological restoration projects, are not black and white and can have unique outcomes. Using California vernal pools, or temporary wetlands, as the chosen ecosystem, students have the opportunity to learn about an ecologically dynamic habitat. In addition to learning about vernal pools, students construct an argument based on evidence while also identifying potential biases when the same question is tackled from different perspectives. The case was designed for an upper division environmental science or ecology course and would be appropriate for any course that involves restoration ecology, land management or scientific policy. Two optional PowerPoint presentations are included that provide background, detail, and structure to the classroom tasks.

  • Use evidence to construct an argument.
  • Compare and contrast ecological studies in a similar system with opposing viewpoints.
  • Use vernal pool ecological relationships to help make land management decisions.
  • Identify and work through biases to reach a management decision.
Keywords: vernal pools; wetlands; restoration ecology; grazing; cattle
Topical Area: Regulatory issues, Scientific argumentation
Educational Level: Undergraduate upper division, Professional (degree program)
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Directed, Discussion, Journal Article, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Ecology   Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management  
Date Posted: 7/12/2016
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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Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentations below are optional and can be shown in class to provide structure to classroom activities and background.


  Day 1 Presentation (vernal_grazing_day1.pptx)
  Day 2 Presentation (vernal_grazing_day2.pptx)

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