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A Struggle for Power in China: The Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam in China is one of the world's largest hydroelectric dams, providing energy for millions of people. However, the dam's construction forever altered the Yangtze River ecosystem and the lives of local residents. In this case study, s...

A Tale of Twin Towns
This case study presents the fictional tale of two neighboring towns that have recently experienced a growth boom and are now suffering the environmental consequences. The case provides an opportunity to explore a wide variety of anthropogenic causes o...

Can Suminoe Oysters Save Chesapeake Bay?
This dilemma case explores the controversy over introducing non-native oysters to the Chesapeake Bay as a means of improving its ecological and economic health. Developed for use in an interdisciplinary doctoral program in energy and environmental stud...

Cancer Cure or Conservation
This case is based on the controversy that surrounded harvesting of the Pacific yew from 1989 to 1997 to develop paclitaxel (Taxol), a revolutionary anti-cancer drug. The case was designed to expose students to basic conservation biology concepts by ex...

Carbon Balance of Forest Thinning and Bioenergy Production
This interrupted case study introduces students to the concept of carbon storage and how land management decisions can affect this vital ecosystem service.  Forests play an important role in the carbon cycle because of their ability to uptake and ...

Cauldron of Democracy
This case study explores the controversy surrounding Yellowstone bison (Bison bison) and the relationship between wildlife management and pluralist democracy. In the late 1960s Yellowstone National Park suspended the policy of strictly managin...

Community-Based Management and Conservation in Africa
Niko lives in Namibia and is about to attend a community meeting at which the fate of his family's re-settlement will be decided. He is unsure as to what would be best for his family; his father does not want to move while his brother is optimistic tha...

Complexity in Conservation
Conservation biology focuses on the scientific study and practice of preventing biodiversity loss. Many complex sociocultural factors affect the success of conservation. This case study presents the true story of a Texas man who killed a cat that was k...

Cooling Off a Warming Planet
This role-playing case on climate change policy is designed to engage student groups in parallel discussions on policy instruments and packages for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, student groups discuss cap-and-trade and carbon tax ...

Corn Ethanol Debate
To what extent should corn be used for the production of ethanol? Are we better off producing corn for food or producing corn for fuel? This case study uses a technique called "intimate debate" (also known as "constructive controversy") in order to exa...

Dengue in the Landscape
This interrupted case engages students in issues contributing to the increase of dengue fever in Jamaica. The overall goal of the case is to make clear the connections between land use management and public health, specifically dengue fever. Students l...

Do Corridors Have Value in Conservation?
This case study discusses conservation corridors as a means to reduce the problems of population size and isolation in a fragmented habitat. In an interrupted format, students learn what a corridor is, consider how nature preserves and corridors functi...

Does the Matrix Matter?
In this case study, students apply principles of landscape ecology, experimental design, and data interpretation to examine alternative explanations for how birds respond to forest fragmentation and landscape matrix. Using an interrupted format, the ca...

Dredge Today, Restore Tomorrow
In this case study, students role-play members of a task force whose task it is to advise the Director of the National Park Service (their instructor) on the best location for creating a wetland using dredge material from the Potomac River.  Stude...

Endangered? The St. Croix River
Managing the St. Croix River has sparked tremendous controversy due to conflicting uses of the river. At risk is the water quality and aesthetic value of this National Scenic Riverway. The drama unfolding around the St. Croix River is used in this case...

Exotics
This case examines the biological, ecological, social, political, and economic factors surrounding exotic species as well as the role of resource managers in shaping public policy on environmental issues. In addition to conservation ecology courses, th...

First in Flight, Last in Wetlands Preservation?
Developed for an introductory environmental studies course, this case study explores the ecological, economic, and legislative issues associated with land development and wetland loss. Students role-play the points of view of four different stakeholder...

From Prairies to Corn Fields for Fuel
With increasing U.S. government support for biofuel production in the late 2000s came increased pressure to convert more land to cornfields for ethanol. To make way for more corn, millions of acres of prairie grassland were plowed under, destroying an ...

Grazing in Vernal Pools
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...

Impacts of Climate Change on Pinyon Pine Cone Production
In this interrupted case study, students explore how changing climate may affect cone production in pinyon pine (Pinus edulis). Students begin by learning about mast seeding, a common reproductive strategy among many perennial plant species, a...

Is Iron Fertilization Good for the Sea?
This case study describes experiments to seed the ocean with iron to encourage algae growth. It explores how human activities contribute to greenhouse effects and global warming, proposals to potentially counteract these effects and make the ocean more...

Kill the Aliens: Controlling Leafy Spurge
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 ad...

Losing the Farm
In this case study, students examine hydrologic characteristics of a real farm property in northwest Georgia and calculate the volume of storm runoff expected for a typical storm using the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS) method. The case is used t...

Making It Fit: Using Excel to Analyze Biological Systems
In this case, students read about a biologist who needs to determine how to analyze age-at-length data, a common situation in fisheries biology. The fictional Dr. Latimer is tasked with fitting non-linear models to the data, and the case develops as he...

Mathematics in Conservation
This interrupted case study teaches probability theory and transmission genetics through their application to the conservation of the endangered Florida panther. An endangered population is unlikely to survive simply due to its small population size. B...

Mildred Using Plants
The format for this case is unusual.  The PowerPoint of the "case" provides an in-class framework for working through all of the activities associated with the case.  These activities are explained in the teaching notes.  The teaching no...

Mini Cases on Choosing Appropriate Statistical Tests for Ecological Data
This set of mini cases on the ecology of eastern cottontail rabbits is designed to give students practical experience using statistics in a scientific context. Given a dataset and experimental design, groups of students are asked to play the part of a ...

Moving to Higher Ground: Ecosystems, Economics and Equity in the Floodplain
Healthy river systems serve a wide variety of functions, including recreation, crop production, and navigation. Effective floodplain management requires integrating cultural, economic and ecosystem needs, and often tradeoffs must be made. This case stu...

Oak Clearcutting
The topic of this debate case, developed for a course in “Issues in Environmental Biology,” is clear-cutting, a controversial method of harvesting and regenerating trees in which all trees are cleared from a site. Students debate the issue,...

Of Silt and Ancient Voices
This case explores the complex and multifaceted resource management issues that arose when traditional Zuni Indian land and water use practices were displaced by the construction of the Black Rock Irrigation Project by the U.S. government in the early ...

On a Wing and a Prayer
The essential elements of this dilemma case are based on a real-life wetland mitigation problem. A biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to decide whether to improve a wetland adversely impacted by toxins or restore another site instead...

One Glass for Two People
This case study focuses on the growing issue of water use rights in the southeastern United States. Approximately 1.3 million people in North and South Carolina depend on the Catawba-Wateree River for water and electricity. The river is also important...

Pesticides
By simulating a public hearing, this case study requires that students sift through and organize information on pesticide use presented to them from the perspective of different stakeholders. The case asks a fundamental question, Can we do without ...

Prairie Garden of Troubles
This "clicker case" was developed for a general biology course for non-majors. It focuses on prairie habitat ecology and restoration. Jim, a young ecologist, has created a reconstructed prairie in his backyard. His neighbors don't like it and they have...

Response to Plant Invasion
This interrupted case study provides students with an opportunity to compare and contrast methods for controlling spotted knapweed, an invasive species in the United States that has raised considerable concern in western pastures and rangeland. Student...

Restoring Resilience: Changing the Landscape Legacy in Patagonia
Sheep ranching has destroyed habitat and decimated species in many areas of the world, but in Patagonia declining wool prices provide an opportunity to turn the tide. This case study places students in the role of advisor to an international NGO that h...

Salton, A Sea of Controversy
The Salton Sea is an “accidental” lake that receives used irrigation water from the Colorado River. Humans have profoundly altered the area’s ecosystems. The Salton Sea is important for wildlife and recreation, but is now saltier than...

Seeing the Forest for the Trees
This case study has for its central theme the importance of tree size in both ecology and natural resource management and is designed to introduce components of forest management and policy, the importance of ecological relationships, and the challenge...

The Art of a Deal
This case is a classroom simulation of the types of negotiations that went into the Kyoto Protocol agreement on limiting global greenhouse gas emissions. It was developed for an environmental science course for first-year college students with minimal ...

The Bear Facts
In this decision case, students consider the pros and cons of reintroducing grizzly bears into the northwestern United States as they learn about natural resource policy and the wildlife management decision-making process. Students consider four differ...

The Big Bad Wolf or Symbol of the American Wilderness?
Students enrolled in natural resource programs typically have classroom experience in science-based curricula with little exposure as to how to apply that science to real-life issues. This case study was designed to introduce students to understanding ...

The Case of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
Based on the disputed rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in April 2005, this interrupted case study tells the story of a fictional character, "Brad Murky," a student and research assistant who must decide whether the current evidence is suffici...

The Dangers of Deicing
Loss of species richness is often due to anthropogenic activity. The global decline of amphibians is one such example. This case study examines the impact of road deicing agents on amphibians living near bridges and roads treated heavily with salt duri...

The Ecological Footprint Dilemma
Is it better to have a new parking lot on campus or use that space to develop a community garden? This is the issue presented in this "clicker case," which pulls students into the decision-making process. Students learn about concepts related to susta...

The Galapagos
Using problem-based learning and role-playing, students analyze the geological origins of the Galapagos Islands, their colonization, species formation, and threats to their biodiversity in this story of a graduate student caught between local fisherme...

The Great Patagonia Land Grab
This PowerPoint case (~2.4 MB) was developed for an undergraduate, non-majors course in conservation biology. It explores the controversy surrounding land purchases in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina. According to local indigenous peoples, ...

The Klamath Basin Water Crisis
In this case study, students examine global water shortage problems in the context of the current Klamath Basin water crisis. Two main perspectives are addressed, agriculture and the environment, along with multiple other perspectives including Native ...

The Last Spruce Grove
This case study follows a drama that unfolded around a stand of Sitka spruce trees (Picea sitchensis) on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The stand held significant historical and cultural significance, particularly to the local first-natio...

The Mystery of the Missing Martens
This interrupted case study introduces basic modeling to investigate a decline in an American marten population on an island in Southeast Alaska. Two summer field technicians working on a long-term field ecology project for one of their professors noti...

The Poop on Composting
This interrupted case study tells the story of Miles, a freshman in college, who volunteers to help with the composting program on campus. Miles is excited about composting but his mother is hesitant to try it at home. Miles learns about the key ingred...

The River Damned
In this dilemma case, Congresswoman Madeline Gibson must cast her vote on the fate of the lower Snake River dams. The stakeholders in this decision represent government agencies, small businesses, large industries, farmers, local tribes, environmentali...

The Value of a Wetland
This case study introduces students to the elements of a renewable resource management project. The issue of wetland drainage, for the purpose of increasing land available for annual crop production, is used to deliver the learning outcomes. Angela, a ...

The Wealth of Water
Many students take the availability of water for granted. This case study, which focuses on the Cochabamba water revolt in Bolivia, is designed to encourage students to think about water as a limited natural resource. Students learn about the limited n...

To Be or Not To Be a Golf Course in Wimberley?
This interrupted case study examines the tensions that a small town in Texas faces between economic development and the preservation of a natural water resource for which the town is known. It highlights the interdependence and tensions between economi...

Unintended Consequences of Plant Domestication on Plant-Insect Interactions
This case study investigates how plant domestication sometimes produces unintended consequences for plant-insect interactions. The narrative follows a boy in middle school, Podrick, who goes on a class field trip and notices that there are no caterpill...