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Survivorship in the natural world

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Overview: Real-life data from seven wild primate populations provide examples of real survivorship curves.
Authors: Alberts, Susan C.
Ward, Dan
Lapp, Hilmar
Instruction Level: Undergraduate (Intro Biology or Intro Ecology), AP Biology
Keywords survivorship, life history, population ecology, demography, life tables, age structure
Date Published: 2012-06-15T15:03:34Z
Duration: Flexible: If in a lab, 2 - 2.5 hours for presentation of background, computation, preparation of graphs and discussion is plenty. If in a lecture, presentation of example, with background, might take 20 - 40 minutes. Then homework could be expandable depending on how much background you request from them. If in a tutorial, could be done in 1.25 hours.
Requirements: Excel or comparable spreadsheet program such as Google Spreadsheet, Apple Numbers, etc. Could be done by hand but would be tedious.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Create and manage data files.
  • Graph construction from real data
  • Computation of population sizes and survivorship (data transformation and working with data)
  • Understanding the difference between an idealized model and a real life example. The heuristic value of this is realizing that ideal models have value but do not represent the real world.
  • Critical thinking about: a. The difference between ideal models and the real world, b. Possible causes of survivorship differences between sexes and species
  • Depending on the scope of the module (i.e., depending on instructor choices about how extensively to explore the data and its context), critical thinking about natural history of the species and how that might relate to the survivorship curves and if it explains what you see.
Prerequisite Knowledge: This module is designed to accompany an introduction to survivorship curves (and/or discussions of age structure), of the type that is standard in many introductory biology or ecology textbooks. Often, three “types” of survival curves are shown and the utility of survivorship is explained to the students (and/or, several different types of age structure are shown). Continued in download file . . .
Instructor Background: See accompanying PowerPoint presentation.
Description of Activity: Part 1 - survivorship analysis. This module will typically begin with the instructor presenting standard material on life history/demography as part of the population ecology section of a course. Continued in download file . . .
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