Desert Beetle Harvests Water

Description:  Certain species of darkling beetles that live in the Namib Desert are able to harvest water vapor using an ingenious series of tips and bumps on their wing scales. The water droplets start to form on the tips and then flow off the waxy bumps to be collected by the beetle. This structure allows the beetle to survive in an incredibly arid environment. It could also be used by engineers to develop a similar system for collecting water for humans. Students should use this and other plants and animal phenomenon to start designing their own solutions to human problems.

Web Resource: Water Vapor Harvesting - Ask Nature, Darkling Beetles  


Corn Cob Sprouting in Water

Description:  This dramatic time lapse shows corn kernels sprouting over time. Each of the kernels represents a new corn plant and so corn cobs represent a wonderful organism for studying genetics. In elementary this phenomenon can be used to show what plants need to survive. In secondary students can investigate specific crosses, analyze patterns in the offspring, and could even study transposons "jumping genes".

Web Resources:  Why Is Our Corn Changing? - Next Gen Storylines, Corn Genetics - Biology4Friends, Corn Genetics - Wikipedia


Alligators Survive In Ice

Description: As ice covers a lake, the alligators will leave their nostrils out of the water, sometimes frozen in place. Since the alligators are ectothermic (receiving body heat from their environment) they will enter into a state of dormancy called brumation. This amazing phenomenon could be used as an example of successful animal behavior or a form of homeostasis.

Web Resources:  Alligators 'Snorkel' to Survive Ice-Covered Swamp - Live Science, Reptile Brumation - South Carolina Aquarium


Crown Shyness

Description:  In this phenomenon the crowns of certain trees do not touch. The physiological mechanism and cause of this phenomenon is not clearly understood. Since it appears in several species of trees that are not directly related it may be an example of convergent evolution. Students could speculate on why this occurs and in the upper levels may attempt to determine the mechanism of crown shyness.

Web Resource:  Crown shyness - Wikipedia


Why Do Sunflowers Follow the Sun?

Description:  This is an excellent phenomenon that can be used in many different units. According to researchers only young sunflowers will follow the Sun. These flowers are following a natural circadian rhythm to receive the most light for photosynthesis. However when they mature the flowers will mainly face east. The reason for this is fairly simple, bees like warm flowers, and the flowers facing the east are the warmest.

Web Resources:  The Mystery Of Why Sunflowers Turn To Follow The Sun — Solved - NPR, Helianthus - Wikipedia


Biosphere 2

Description:  Biosphere 2 was created in the 1990's to model all the elements of Biosphere 1 (The Earth). Plants in the biosphere produced oxygen and food for the inhabitants. The carbon dioxide released during respiration was taken in by the plants cycling the matter with energy from the Sun. In this experiment oxygen levels steadily fell to dangerous levels and oxygen eventually had to be added to the biosphere. This large-scale phenomenon continues to be owned and run by the University of Arizona. The mystery of missing oxygen could be used as a phenomenon in a unit on matter cycling and energy flow. Students can even create biospheres of their own and monitor life over time.

Web Resource:  Biosphere 2 - Wikipedia


Exploring Microhabitats

Description:  Microhabitats can be found anywhere and they can lead to amazing exploration and discovery. An overturned decomposing log or the underside of a rock in a stream are excellent examples of microhabitats. Both a habitat and a microhabitat have typical abiotic (e.g. water, temperature, light. etc.) properties and biotic (e.g. plants, animals, fungi, etc.) factors. The nice thing about a microhabitat is that it is more accessible and a diversity of life can be found in an area that is not very diverse. If microhabitats are not available locally you can create one in your classroom. A terrarium or an aquarium is a great example of a microhabitat.

Web Resource: Microhabitats - Wikipedia


Farming Fish with Vegetables

Description:  Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (i.e. fish farming) with hydroponics (i.e. growing plants in water). Matter cycles in the system and is driven by energy flow from light. Waste from the fish is used as fertilizer for the plants which in turn feeds the fish. Excess plants and fish can be harvested as food for humans.

Web Resources: How to DIY Aquaponics,  Aquaponics - Wikipedia


12 Years in a Sealed Ecosphere

Description:  The Ecosphere in this video has been sealed in a glass container for 12 years. No air or food was able to enter or leave the Ecosphere during this entire time yet the shrimp are all still alive. This phenomenon can be used in the elementary science classroom to introduce plant and animal needs. It can be used in middle and high school to address matter cycling and energy flow.

Web Resources: Ecosphere (aquarium) on WikipediaEcospheres