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Goldifinch and the Three Scales: Investigating Songbird Habitats Near Rivers

This article is from Issue Olympic Winter Games - Vol. 2 No. 2.

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Some scientists think that wildlife is mostly dependent on the immediate natural area in which it lives. The scientist in this study was interested in exploring this idea, because she thought that native songbirds might also be affected by the larger environment surrounding their immediate forest home.

Welcome to the Olympic Winter Games edition

Note to Educators

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Life Science
  • People and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)
  • Using Forests (Students)
  • Vegetation Management (Educators)
  • Vegetation Protection (Fire, Insects, Endangered Species) (Educators)
  • Water (Educators)
  • Wildlife and Endangered Species (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Rocky Mountain

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists who study ecology are called ecologists. Ecologists study the natural environment at different habitat scales, often focusing on studying a large area so that they can better understand how plants, animals, and the land interact. Scientists may also focus on a small scale, as when they study the habitat in the immediate natural area where an animal lives. In this study, the scientist was interested in comparing different sizes, or scales, of songbird habitat, so that she could better understand which kinds of natural places songbirds prefer to live.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Scientific Topics
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Species diversity is a particular kind of biodiversity. Species diversity is a measure of how many different kinds of species live in an area and the numbers of each species. For a natural area to be healthy, it should have many different forms of life. It is best when those species are native to the area. When nonnative species move into an area, they sometimes compete with the native species for food and homes. An example of a nonnative bird is the brown-headed cowbird. The scientist in this study was interested in the diversity of native songbird species living in riparian forests. Riparian forests are forests located on or near the banks of waterways. Dr. Saab wondered whether nonnative bird species were moving into the forests. If they were moving into the forests, they might be pushing native songbirds out. This would reduce the songbird species diversity. She thought that agriculture and home building on the land surrounding the forests might be creating habitats more favorable for nonnative bird species.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Human impact on natural resources and other living things
  • Invasive Species

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Diversity and adaptations of organisms (C)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Populations, resources and environments (F)
  • Regulation and behavior (C)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Common Themes: Scale
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Historic Perspectives: Explaining the Diversity of Life
  • The Living Environment: Diversity of Life
  • The Living Environment: Interdependence of Life
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Nature of Technology: Issues in Technology
  • The Nature of Technology: Technology and Science