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Could Grazing Be Dangerous? Ask the Cows!

Co Authors:

Kevin Pyatt
College of Computer & Information Sciences
Regis University

Michelle C. Pyatt

Scientific Creations

Michael I. Rule
National Wildlife Refuge System
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


This case study introduces important issues related to invasive species and noxious weeds that have particular ecological and agricultural importance. The realistic storyline follows a rancher, Elmer, who has recently purchased a 180-acre parcel of land. Elmer soon discovers however that the land is infested with houndstongue, an invasive species of weed that poisons his livestock. With the help of his local area conservation district, Elmer organizes volunteers to go for training, where they learn about invasive species, how to identify invasive weed species, and how to use a mobile invasive weed application, a real app that students can download to identify, map, geolocate, and upload invasive species data. The case concludes with the volunteers analyzing the data and making recommendations for integrated pest management. The case was originally developed at a wildlife refuge where field-biologists train citizens in how to identify and sample weed species. The intended audience is the general “citizen scientist” who is interested in land conservation, land use, and invasive species.

  • Interpret species distribution data for a given invasive weed species.
  • Explore a variety of field sampling techniques, including opportunistic sampling.
  • Describe important aspects of public and private land use and access.
  • Distinguish between emergent weed species and established as shown on a species distribution map.
  • Explain important aspects of conservation districts, as well as cooperative weed management groups as they relate to invasive weed control, management and eradication.
  • Explain the significant impact invasive weed species can have on an ecosystem.
  • Make recommendations about the treatment of a specific invasive weed species.
Keywords: Invasive species; citizen scientist; integrated pest management; mobile learning; mobile applications; geolocation; data analysis; agriculture; land management; range management
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Middle school, High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, General Public and Informal Education, Faculty Development
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Directed
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Agriculture   GIS   Science Education   Science (General)   Natural Resource Management   Ecology   Environmental Science   Computer Science  
Date Posted: 4/26/2018
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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