6 Ecology Concepts That Are Easier to Teach with Labster

Ginelle Testa

You want your students to learn ecology in the best way possible. Maybe lesson planning is taking up too much time, you’re recycling the same labs over and over, labs that include ecological experiments are unavailable or require field trips, or you’re a new teacher. 

Whatever the case, we’ve gathered 6 ecology concepts you can teach your students. We’ve also matched accompanying virtual labs that can help teach each one.

1. Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the diversity of the living organisms in an ecosystem, meaning the number of genetically and morphologically different species of plants, animals, and other organisms in a given area. Without a field trip to a forest or a desert, it can be challenging to communicate the full scope of biodiversity. With virtual labs, students can take a virtual field trip!

In Labster’s simulation, Biodiversity: Assess and compare biodiversity on an exoplanet, students can travel to the exoplanet Astakos IV and use ecological methods to assess and compare biodiversity over time and between different sites.

Labster Virtual Simulation, Biodiversity, where students can asses and compare biodiversity on an exoplanet.

2. Trophic Levels

Trophic levels are the positions in a food web or food chain. Most students don’t have up-close access to engage with wildlife in order to learn this information.

In Labster’s simulation, Trophic Levels: Grazer vs. predator, students will guide a zebra toward a feeding ground by interacting with organisms in different trophic levels.

Depiction of the food chain as a pyramid factoring in decomposers, heat energy loss, and the sun's energy.

3. Landscape Ecology

According to the Encyclopedia of Ecology, “Landscape ecology is a subfield of ecology that examines the patterns and interactions between communities that make up relatively large areas.” Again, a proper dive into this subject would require a field trip, which isn’t always feasible. 

In Labster’s simulation, Landscape Ecology: Determine persistence in a spatially heterogeneous landscape, students will learn to identify and compare unique patch types on the exoplanet Astakos IV and use their specific characteristics to help understand local population dynamics. Bioengineers need their help applying the principles of landscape ecology to determine if the persistence of the Propella species on Astakos IV is in danger.

Labster virtual lab simulation on Landscape Ecology where students can determine persistence in a spatially heterogenous landscape.

4. The Nitrogen Cycle

The nitrogen cycle is a biogeochemical cycle that is fundamental to many life processes. The atmosphere consists of 78% nitrogen in the form of nitrogen gas. It can be near impossible to see so the process is challenging for students to wrap their heads around.

In Labster’s simulation, The Nitrogen Cycle: Balance food demands and environmental concerns, students will learn about the nitrogen cycle and help a local restaurant owner understand the complexities of sustainable crop production. Model nitrogen moving between stages of the cycle and then balance food production with environmental impact.

Graphic showing the nitrogen cycle and its impact on crop production.

5. Ecological Competition

According to Nature Education, “Competition is most typically considered the interaction of individuals that vie for a common resource that is in limited supply, but more generally can be defined as the direct or indirect interaction of organisms that leads to a change in fitness when the organisms share the same resource.” This concept can feel philosophical for students without direct application. Virtual labs help make learning more concrete.

In Labster’s simulation, Competition: Learn to identify and quantify competition between species, students will learn how to identify and quantify competition between species on the newly discovered exoplanet Astakos IV.

Labster virtual lab on competition where students can learn to identify and quantify competition between species

6. Eutrophication

Eutrophication means a sudden and dramatic increase in the growth factor for photosynthesis, such as sunlight, carbon dioxide, or nutrients. Nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, exist in low levels in the aquatic ecosystem. Therefore, they become the limiting factor for algal and plant growth. Students benefit by analyzing water samples to understand this concept, but they aren't always readily available.

In Labster’s simulation, Eutrophication, students will take the role of environmental investigator and study the concept of eutrophication and harmful algal bloom. They’ll use the knowledge they acquire to solve a massive fish kill mystery.

Rendering of a fit with its internal organs exposed and a close up of bacteria for the Ecology: Eutrophication Lab by Labster.

Questions for Consideration:

  • How could you incorporate these virtual labs into your teaching plans?
  • What are some other ecology labs you wish you could teach? Check out our catalog of 300+ simulations to see if you can find what you’re looking for!
a man sitting in front of a computer monitor
Bring Science to Life
Immersive Learning Simulations

Labster helps universities and high schools enhance student success in STEM.

Request Demo

Discover The Most Immersive Digital Learning Platform.

Request a demo to discover how Labster helps high schools and universities enhance student success.

Request Demo