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A Whole New World – Tolerance analysis of a nearshore lake community 


Using a field guide developed my limnologists in south Florida, students will identify meiofauna that live in the soil on the edges of lakes on campus. Students will use a field sampling protocol that standardizes the sampling area, the depth of soil removal and the appropriate quality controls for species identification. Previous studies have indicated that the organisms in the nearshore lake environment are variably tolerant of impact to lakes. ‘Impact’ generally refers to harmful compounds in solution that can cause harm or death to organisms in and around the lake. More tolerant organisms can withstand more of these harsh compounds while the more sensitive organisms are easily killed. Limnologists have used this differentiated response to calculate a ‘tolerance value’ for most organisms that live in this environment. This tolerance values of all the organisms found in the sample can be used to calculate a Family Biotic Index (FBI) for the area, a mathematical indication of how impacted the area is. Before sampling, students will develop predictions on which of the 12 lakes on campus are most impacted, stating clearly why they believe so. While this activity is not designed to explicitly address the students’ hypotheses as to why there is variation in impact, it does help them connect their visual estimates of ecosystem health to a vetted biological sampling process that determines impact. 


1.       To implement standard sampling protocols of in-soil fauna according to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the Periphyton Lab 

2.       To connect visual estimates of ecosystem health to the results of a biological analysis of ecosystem health 

3.       To explain the role that lake fauna play as indicator species of ecosystem health 

4.       To design an experiment that determines relative impact between lakes on campus 


1.       A participation grade is used to ensure that all students are active participants in the sampling process. This grade is 5% of their final class grade. 

2.       A low-stakes quiz is given the following week with questions about tolerance analyses using FBI scores and lake comparison measures. 

3.       Objective 3 will be assessed on a more summative assessment. This will be either on a mideterm or final exam depending on when the experiment takes place. An essay question asking the students to explain the connection, or using an applied example will be used. 

4.       Also on a summative assessment, students will be asked to design an experiment using similar parameters to what we used in lab. Experimental design questions are also sometimes asked as formative assessments, but the question is usually truncated for a lower stakes quiz.  

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Posted 20:37, 7 Dec 2012
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