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The Nitrogen Cycle: Balance food demands and environmental concerns Virtual Lab

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.

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The Nitrogen Cycle: Balance food demands and environmental concerns

About this Simulation

The Nitrogen cycle is essential to life as nitrogen is not only vital for food production, it’s also a crucial part of DNA. In this simulation, you will learn all about the nitrogen cycle and help restaurant owner Alex understand why food suppliers cannot simply increase food production without considering the broader impacts it has on the nitrogen cycle. First, you’ll learn about the different stages of the Nitrogen cycle and then identify human influences. Later you’ll assume the role of the local food suppliers managing their crop production. Will you be able to balance the demand for food without negatively impacting the local ecosystem?

Discover the five stages of the nitrogen cycle

Learn all about the fixation, nitrification, ammonification, assimilation, and denitrification stages of the nitrogen cycle in an interactive, exploratory activity! Through the magic of learning in a virtual lab, you can jump into the nitrogen cycle at any stage and model its flow. You will discover the importance of different organisms and abiotic factors, and the role they play in each stage. Do not fear making mistakes - you will be given instant feedback throughout to help you understand and figure out the placement of each part of the cycle. You will then look at how different human influences, such as using synthetic fertilizers or burning fossil fuels, can impact nitrogen in the environment. The knowledge you will gain about the cycle will be vital for the next activity where you will assess a real-life environmental predicament!

Balance food production and nitrogen pollution

Assume the role of a food producer aiming to supply enough food for the restaurant in the local city, while attempting to minimize environmental impact. Use an interactive 3D model on the futuristic holo-floor to manage the various parameters of food production throughout a condensed four-year cycle. Make choices on crop rotation and fertilizer to discover the implications of each on the environment. Balance is essential - you will look at how pollution in one area can travel to another, and even affect local aquatic life. After the four-year cycle has ended, you’ll find out if you were able to maintain the balance. If you aren’t happy with your result, you’ll get the chance to play again and discover a different approach.

Keeping the balance

At the end of the simulation, you’ll inform restaurant owner Alex that balance is needed, and there are no simple solutions for increasing food production while minimising environmental impact!

Learning Objectives

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to:

  • Model how nitrogen moves between organisms and components of the physical environment

  • Explain the wider impact of changes at any one point in the nitrogen cycle

  • Identify examples of human influence on the nitrogen cycle

Techniques in Lab

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to:

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