Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cool Ecology/Evolution Simulation Software

While preparing for the COATT workshop I led this week I was digging through old technologies I've used in the past. One great program I've used before is EcoBeaker. It's not free, but you can download a free demo. The demo is fully functional but will only run for 21 minutes at a time and won't let you save.

What does it do? Well, it includes a number of pre-generated simulations to cover such subjects as: classic predator-prey, competition, biological control, heterozygote advantage, keystone species, and energy flow in an ecosystem (among others).

I've only used the Isle Royale simulation. This model investigates the relationship between moose and wolves in a closed system. However, my students did modify the model to include more species (low growing brush, rabbits and foxes) to investigate more indepth relationships. All the variables can be changed. I mean all the variables. You can simulate just about any model you'd find in a college level ecology book (if you were so inclined).

The best part was watching the students while they were using the model. The loved being able to actually see the wolves and moose in the habitat. They also begin experimenting themselves. Granted, some of this was pretty superfluous, but they were asking their own questions and getting the answers to those questions very quickly.

From what I saw of EcoBeaker and its effects on my students I'd say it was well worth buying (currently they are updating their prices, so have none online). If I still taught Environmental Science I know I would either whine at my Department Head until she gave me the money for it or find a grant to buy it. (I want to say it was in the $500 range when I looked a couple years ago).

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1 comment:

MissoulaChick said...

Hey Steve- glad to see you liked our simulations. I work for SimBiotic Software and I'd like to let you (and your readers) know that we have some great new software for High School teachers, as well as all our prices posted online. Email me if you have questions-