Unit: Matter, Energy, and Ecosystems

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Advanced Placement Environmental

Harvard-Westlake School
Text: Working With the Earth, G. Tyler Miller Jr., 11th edition

Course # 5025

Unit: Matter, Energy, and Ecosystems

Chapter 1

Section 1-1 through 1-6

Chapter 2 Text

Section 2-1 through 2-4

Chapter 3 Text

Section 3-1 through 3-6

Chapter 18

Section 18-1 through 18-2



Seed Germination and Population Dynamics Lab

Seed Germination and Range of Tolerance Lab

Nutrient Cycling Lab


Decomposition of Oak Leaves Worksheet

Simple Math for ‘Geniuses’ #1 (Unit Fraction Method)

Matter, Energy, and Ecosystems Review Sheet


  • Forms and Quality

  • Law of Conservation

  • 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics

  • Energy Flow


  • Nutrient Cycles (Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Hydrologic)

  • Producers vs. Consumers

  • Photoautotrophs vs. Chemoautotrophs

  • Organism, Species, Population, Community, Ecosystem, Ecosphere

  • Three Types of Biodiversity

  • Ecological Pyramids

  • Trophic Levels

  • Herbivores, Carnivores, Omnivores, Scavengers, Detritivores, Decomposers

  • Food Chains and Webs (Energy Flow and Efficiency)

  • Limiting Factor (what are some)

  • Range of Tolerance

  • Specialist vs. Generalist

  • Habitat vs. Niche

  • Gross vs. Net Primary Productivity

  • Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration

  • Relative productivities of different ecosystems

Environmental Economics

  • Full cost pricing

  • Point of diminishing returns

  • Natural capital

  • External vs. Internal costs

  • Subsidies and Tax Breaks

  • Affluenza

  • Supply and Demand


  • Per capita

  • I = PAT (developed vs. developing countries)

Labs and Homework

  • Lessons from Seed Germination/Range of Tolerance Lab

  • Lessons from Nutrient Cycling Lab

  • Scientific Method

  • Experimental Design

Seed Germination and Population Dynamics Lab

One of the most important issues in both ecology and environmental science is that of overpopulation and overcrowding. Charles Darwin spoke frankly about the tendency for all species to overpopulate the carrying capacity of their environment. Competition, he stated, leads to the survival of those individuals best adapted to their environment. This lab explores the manner by which plant germination responds to over-crowding. Some of the variables have been defined for you, but you need to determine how many seeds to put in each iteration of the test in order to make conclusions about over-crowding.

Materials: Mung bean seeds Petri dishes (6) Water

Filter paper Graduated cylinders Flasks/beakers Pens and labels


  1. Wash 6 petri dishes (We reuse them every year. Make sure they are clean.)

  2. Line each dish with filter paper.

  3. Put 10 ml of water in each dish.

  4. Decide how many beans you want to put in each petri dish such that you will be able to make some conclusions about overcrowding. Think about the size constraints of the dish, the amount of water you have added, and being able to ‘cover the most possible scenarios’. Make sure to remove any obviously broken/damaged beans.

  5. Cover the dishes, and place a label with your Group number and number of seeds on each covered dish. (They germinate rapidly.)

  6. Make careful observations of your seeds ON A DAILY BASIS!! (Yes, this means at least one of you needs to come in during any X-period to record data.)

  7. Seeds need both water and oxygen to grow. You must keep your seeds moist!

  8. Formulate a hypothesis in the “if, …then” format stating what % of the seeds you expect to see germinate on day 1, 2, and 3 for your observations. Write down your group’s hypothesis below.



Number of Mung Beans


Petri with

? seeds

Petri with

? seeds

Petri with

? seeds

Petri with

? seeds

Petri with

? seeds

Petri with

? seeds

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Note: If your beans grow really fast, you may see some with short and long stems as well as leaves. Depending on the results we may choose to produce another table for information beyond just germination.


  1. All experiments have dependent and independent variables and some variables are regarded as constant. Look back at the Procedure and indentify all of the variables. Which of these are independent and dependant?

  2. Using Excel or a piece of graph paper produce a scatter plot with days on the x-axis (independent variable), and numbers of seeds germinated on the y-axis (dependent variable).

  3. Look up the definition for carrying capacity in your textbook. We will cover the subject in detail later in the quarter.

  4. Write a paragraph in the space below and summarize you experiment results. Include a discussion of the shapes of the graphs you produced for the seed germination results, and tie this information to the concept of carrying capacity. Think about how various types of errors (at least 2) can affect testing your hypothesis.

Seed Germination and the Range of Tolerance

You are a member of a team of scientists in a biology laboratory. You have been investigating the effects of several factors on radish seed germination (i.e., sprouting). Recently, someone on the team discovered a potential problem with some of the experiments. She found that the water that you have been using on the seeds was sometimes varied in acidity. Do these changes in the acidity of the water affect the germination of radish seeds, and if they do, what would be the optimum pH for radish seed germination?

Your job is to find the optimal pH of the water to germinate seeds. You will need to design and conduct an experiment which will evaluate the problem. You will need to report your results to the other members of your team, and you will also need to give them advice about the problem.

Germination of seeds: Seeds need both moisture and air for germination. They do not need light. It is best to place seeds between moistened paper towels, but it is important that they are not drowned in the water.

The first two parts will be done for homework in preparation for the lab.

Part 1:

Problem Definition: State the problem that you are going to investigate.

(cont’d next pg.)

Part 2:

Experimental Design: Describe the experiment you will conduct to investigate the problem. Identify the hypothesis or prediction that your experiment will be testing. List all of the steps that you will do. Your list should provide enough details so that someone else could accurately repeat your experiment.

Once your design has been checked by your instructor set up and conduct your experiment. You will have one week to complete your experiment. The following will be done on your own.

Results: Once you have finished the experiment, describe the results of your experiment. Compare the results of your experiment with what you expected to happen. Graph your data and interpret the graph. Did the experiment turn out as you hypothesized or predicted it would? Explain why or why not.

Conclusions: Based upon the results of your experiment, what do you conclude about the effects of pH on seed germination? What sources of error were present in your lab design? Make recommendations for a revised experiment on seed germination.


Ecological Impacts of Rice Farming: Nutrient Cycles

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