Skip to Content

The Perilous Plight of the Pika


Fleur M. Ferro
Department of Biology
Community College of Denver


This interrupted case study addresses several concepts related to climate change and its effect on the American pika. Often called an indicator species for climate change, the pika has a unique set of variables specific to its environment. Factors such as temperature, snowpack, and vegetation can affect the distribution and ultimately the chances of survival. The case was designed for use in a "flipped" classroom in which students prepare in advance outside of class by filling out a worksheet while watching a video. The video, created by the author of the case, provides students with baseline information that they apply in class to come up with key ideas and predictions, followed by analysis of actual data to test the hypotheses they develop. The case study incorporates group discussion, analysis of experimental design, and data evaluation as central activities and can be taught in a single 50 minute class session. The case was designed for use in a large introductory-level class, but is also appropriate for smaller classes.


  • Describe environmental requirements for animals living in alpine tundra ecosystems.
  • Understand how having narrow ranges of physiological requirements can be detrimental if/when the environment changes.
  • Describe how different selective pressures can cause organisms to either adapt or move to a new location.
  • Pose hypotheses to investigate climate change and its effects on the American pika.
  • Analyze and interpret research results.


American pika; climate change; genetic bottleneck; abiotic factors; Southern Rocky Mountains; Colorado;

Topical Areas

Policy issues, Scientific method, Regulatory issues, Scientific argumentation

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, General public & informal education


PDF, PowerPoint, Excel

Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Directed, Flipped



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Botany / Plant Science  |   Climatology / Meteorology  |   Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Science (General)  |   Wildlife Management  |   Zoology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.

Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

The PPT below may be used in place of the video. The spreadsheet presents the data from Worksheet #2 for convenience.

  Alternative PPT
  Worksheet #2 Data

Answer Key

Answer keys for the cases in our collection are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.


The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • The Perilous Plight of the Pika
    This video describes the unique environmental requirements of the American pika, giving a general overview of the habitat requirements, food preferences, and temperature ranges necessary for this indicator species to survive. Running time: 6:06 min. Produced by Fleur M. Ferro in association with The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science and Michigan State University, 2015.