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How Many Penguins Does It Take?
Studying carrying capacity and limiting factors

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(duplicated from Pre-Activity Setup, in case you looked here first) Populations change over time. Deaths, births, immigrations, and emigrations all affect how many individuals are left in a population. Other factors--such as food, water, shelter, space, disease--dictate population numbers. These are called limiting factors. They are limiting because they affect whether or not the population will increase or decrease. Carrying capacity is the number of organisms an ecosystem can hold long-term without any damage to that ecosystem. For example, let’s say that you have 100 acres of woods behind your house. That 100 acres can only hold a certain number of squirrels. There are only a certain number of nuts to go around. Once those nuts are gone, the squirrels must either find another home, or they will die of starvation. So, over time, you’ll find that the squirrel population stays at an average number that the woods can support--no more, no less. And that is carrying capacity.

Resources and Reference Materials


Penguins of the World, Pauline Reilly

My Season With Penguins: An Antarctic Journal, Sophie Webb

Playing With Penguins: And Other Adventures in Antarctica, Ann McGovern

Penguins (Animals of the Oceans), Judith Hodge

Mitsuaki Iwago’s Penguins, Mitsuaki Iwago

Penguins of the World, Wayne Lynch

Penguin Planet: Their World, Our World, Kevin Schafer

Carrying capacity

Full House: Reassessing the Earth’s Population Carrying Capacity (The Worldwatch Environmental Alert), Lester Brown


Emperors of Antarctica, 53 minutes, available at www.discovery.com

Penguin World, 30 minutes, available at www.libraryvideo.com

Web sites

Link to teacher/scientists who have seen Antarctica penguins:

../../elliott/11.18.1998.html (Elissa Elliott’s journal and pictures of brief penguin experience)

../../activity/wille/penguinpreferences_hook.html (Andre Wille’s lesson plan on tracking penguins) tea.rice.edu/wille/1.6.2000.html (one of Andre Wille’s journal entries about Adelie penguins)

Carrying capacity information:

http://www.uaf.alaska.edu/seagrant/NewsMedia/96ASJ/06.14.96_Carry.html (Arctic Science Journeys Radio Script 1996 on carrying capacity)

http://www.kdu.com/carry.html (Kentucky Down Under Student Activities--carrying capacity)

http://www.census.gov%2Fmain%2Fwww%2Fpopclock.html (U.S. Census Bureau--watch the clocks tick as the pop. increases)

http://www.popexpo.net%2Fenglish.html (6 billion human beings web site from France)

http://dieoff.org/page112.htm (detailed paper “Population, Sustainability, and the Earth’s Carrying Capacity” from BioScience, Nov. 1992)

http://bcn.boulder.co.us/basin/local/sustain6.html (Ecological Footprints and Carrying Capacity arcticle and demonstrations)

Other population dynamics/lesson plan resources:

http://www.kdu.com/habit.html (Kentucky Down Under Student Activities--shrinking habitat)

http://www.accessexcellence.org/atg/data/released/0084-CatherineRoss/description.html (Earth Day Birthday Party Activity--population dynamics)

http://www.accessexcellence.org/atg/data/released/0279-MikeBasham/index.html (The Natural Selection of Forks and Beans Activity--population dynamics)

http://www.accessexcellence.org/atg/data/released/0314-Jeffreyweld/index.html (Cemetery Demographics Activity--population trends)

http://www.accessexcellence.org/atg/data/released/0534-KathyParis/index.html (Biodiversity Activities--Is the ecosystem healthy and stable or sick and unstable?)

http://www.raptor.cvm.umn.edu/raptor/meeen/connect.html (Raptor Center “It’s All Interconnected!”

Activities--populations and habitats)

Penguin information:

http://home.capu.net/~kwelch/pp/ (Penguin Page--very professionally done)

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/penguins/ (Nature--The World of Penguins teacher resources)

http://octopus.gma.org/surfing/antarctica/penguin.html (Penguin adaptations)

http://octopus.gma.org/surfing/antarctica/chicks.html (Chick die-off)

http://www.siec.k12.in.us/~west/proj/penguins/plan1.html (Elementary internet lesson plans using penguins)

http://www.stemnet.nf.ca/~mwhitt/penguin/penguin.html (Penguin links)

http://www.discovery.com/cams/penguin/penguinmain.html (Penguin cam from the Biodome in Montreal)

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