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Ecology & Biodiversity students study forces that have shaped local shrub steppe (photo gallery)

It was hands on learning for some Richland High School science students on Monday. The Ecology & Biodiversity class traveled to the Hanford Reach National Monument North site to learn more about how the basalt lava flows and last ice age floods impacted the current biodiversity of the local shrub steppe.

“This course offers students the opportunity to study the forces that have shaped the earth with the main focus on ecology and evolution,” explains teacher Audra Richter. “This field trip to our local shrub steppe brought textbook learning to real life.”

Students completed three activities at the Hanford Reach site:

  • Found a Missoula Flood geocache to learn about rhythmites that were left behind due to flood sediment and how the Columbia River has slowly carved its way to the ocean;

  • Analyzed quadrat vegetation between the river and the trail to determine wildflower species population coverage and interspecific competition;

  • Determined species richness and energy flow through this micro ecosystem. 

“The students will use their species richness data to develop a food web showing various relationships and energy flow within the ecosystem,” adds Richter. “The wildflower population sampling will be used to compare data to determine population density.”

KNDU-TV news story