Introduction to Population Dynamics  

Population growth in the wild is affected by a multitude of factors, including food supply, habitat size, disease, and predator behavior. Computer models can be used as a tool to understand the complex interactions among these factors. MVHS offers two activities that allow the student to explore population dynamics.

In the first activity, the students build a computer model in a systems programming language. The model allows the students to see the effects of birth rate, death rate and habitat size on a population of deer. In their exploration, they encounter both exponential and logistic growth curves. Students should be familiar with the concepts of birth and death rates, emigration and immigration, predation, limiting factors such as food supply and habitat size, and carrying capacity. The activity is self-paced with extensions provided for those who have extra time.

The second activity is a web-based simulation derived from the systems model. The deer population activity allows students to experiment with birth rates, death rates, and the habitat size to see the impact of these factors on the deer population over a time span of 100 years. Students will see examples of exponential growth (J-curve), exponential decay, bounded growth (S-curve), and carrying capacity.

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