Ecology Disrupted

Part of Curriculum Collections.

Using real scientific data to link daily life to environmental issues and ecological functions in secondary school science classrooms.

These case study units engage students in real scientific research that has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The research is introduced through the use of videos produced by the Museum. The overarching goals of these units are to:

  • Connect regular daily life activities to disruption of ecological function
  • Analyze authentic scientific data
  • Learn about real scientists and their stories

Before you begin...

Read Why Use Ecology Disrupted? to learn more about the pedagogical approach of Ecology Disrupted.

Review How to Use the Ecology Disrupted Materials to learn how to navigate the Ecology Disrupted web site, and how to locate and use specific materials for creating your own lesson plans.

As you use Ecology Disrupted...

Each unit has an index that lists unit contents by topic and by type of material.  Use the indexes to find videos, presentation slides, and other materials on specific topics.  Unit indexes are cross-linked, so you can explore a specific topic or type of material across units.

Browse through the set of Additional Case Studies from other educators who have used the Ecology Disrupted materials to make their own lessons, and to learn how to contribute your materials to the site.


Major highways that connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas run through bighorn sheep habitat. These highways allow travel between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in just four hours, but what do they mean for the sheep?

Essential Question: 
How might being able to drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in just four hours put bighorn sheep at risk?

Key Topics:

  • Habitats
  • Populations
  • Inbreeding
  • DNA
  • Measuring and Map Analysis
  • Genetic Diversity

7th - 12th grade

6 class periods

In winter, salt is regularly applied to melt ice on roads in the Northeast. But road salt runoff drains into streams and drinking water. The salt buildup has made some urban, suburban, and rural streams 25 percent as salty as seawater.

Essential Question: 
How might snowy and icy roads affect Baltimore area’s water supply?

Key Topics:

  • Abiotic and Biotic Factors
  • Water
  • Runoff
  • Ecosystems
  • Graphing

7th - 12th grade

7 class periods

Students analyze historic and present-day food webs and graph historic and present-day Chesapeake Bay data to learn how food web complexity is easily overlooked, and why that complexity is important for healthy ecosystems.

Essential Question: 
In what ways have people caused the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem to become more vulnerable to algal blooms and dead zones?

Key Topics:

  • Food Webs
  • Nitrogen Cycle
  • Dead Zones
  • Overfishing
  • Estuaries
  • Graphing

7th - 12th grade

4 class periods


Ecology Disrupted is a collaboration between the American Museum of Natural History and The City College of New York.

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Funding for this web site provided by the National Science Foundation Grants DRL-0918629 and DRL-0918583
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.