Freshwater Spring

 

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Research Link 2000: Research Systems

Council on 
Undergraduate 
Research
_______________ 

Research Link 2000:
Freshwater Spring Introduction

Freshwater Springs as Model Systems

 
INTRODUCTION



This field-ecology research "module" can be used in introductory biology, ecology, or evolutionary biology laboratory courses. The module requires four 3.5 to 4-hr laboratory periods, plus extra time 
for students to write research reports. The overall aim of the exercise is to give students a feel for what it is like to do research in evolutionary ecology. Three specific aims are: (1) to give students first-hand experience with describing major features of an ecosystem, in this 
case a local freshwater spring, (2) to show students how to estimate 
the evolutionary relationships of organisms, by using selected traits of 
a sample of spring-dwelling animal taxa that are analyzed with the computer program PAUP, and (3) to engage students in specific research projects aimed at finding evidence for sexual selection in the freshwater "shrimp" Gammarus minus Say (Amphipoda). 


View of outflow of Warm Spring, Huntingdon, PA

This research system has several advantages, including: (1) field 
work can be carried out year-round because springs have nearly constant temperatures, (2) spring ecosystems are fairly discrete and have relatively few common species of animals and plants, thus simplifying ecological analyses, (3) springs may differ considerably in habitat, water chemistry and biotic composition even within a local region, thus offering useful "natural experiments", (4) the animals of springs are easy to collect and maintain in the laboratory, and (5) brooding of the young and year-round amplexus behavior in spring-dwelling amphipods and isopods make these animals especially suitable for studying the ecology of reproduction and sexual selection, an important evolutionary process. 

Additional advantages specific to this exercise include: (a) each component can be easily expanded or contracted to fit various schedules, (b) several facets of the research process, from data collection to statistical analysis to manuscript preparation are 
introduced to students, (c) the study system can accommodate 
endless modification in terms of research questions asked, 
(d) students can be exposed to various scientific approaches 
including field and laboratory experiments, and comparative studies 
of individual organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems 
and/or functional/taxonomic groups, and (e) the exercise can be 
carried out, wholly or in part, wherever there are freshwater springs 
or springbrooks available for study. 
 

Lab Core 
     Freshwater Springs as Model Systems
     Further Background
               Classifying the Diversity of Life 
               Amphipods 
               Sexual Selection 
     Equipment and Materials
     Field and Laboratory Research
               First Session 
               Second Session 
               Third Session 
               Fourth Session 
     Other Research Questions
               Modifications of Research Exercise 
               Independent Research Projects 
     References
               Sources of Extensive Bibliographies on Springs 
               References on Stream Ecology and Biotas, Including 
                       Methods and Taxonomic Keys 
               General References on Sexual Selection 
               References Cited in the Lab Core Pages 
     Technical Assistance

 Lab Link 
     Background Web Links
     Adopter Links
     Research Links
     On-Line Poster Presentations
     Discussion Board

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©March 1999