Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oh! Deer!

Today, parents and children from the Lowcountry Christian Home Educators Association (LCHEA) met at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest for a walk in the old-growth swamp and a lesson on the carrying capacity of a habitat.

"Oh! Deer!" is a lesson from the Project Wild environmental curriculum. In the activity, some students act out the parts of a deer herd looking for food, water, and shelter. The remaining students play the role of the habitat represented by either food, water, or shelter. With their backs to each other, students decide what it is that they will seek as deer or what it is that they will provide as habitat. If the deer find what they were looking for in the habitat, both students return as deer to the opposite side of the area. If the deer don't find what they are looking for, they die and become part of the habitat.

After 15 years (turns), the data collected during the activity is graphed showing how population size differs over time and with changes in the environment (disease, drought, overpopulation, predators, etc). There is a carrying capacity for a population within a habitat that when exceeded has a negative impact on that population. The population will decrease below the carrying capacity at which time conditions will be favorable for the population to increase.

There is a healthy White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population at the Francis Beidler Forest. Can you spot the deer in the image?

Image by Mark Musselman

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