Sixth-graders from Wheatland have been coming to the Berry Center for four years, to learn about biodiversity in a setting that can't be beat! They observe native plants up close on the Berry Prairie, and learn how and why botanists collect and identify plant species at the Rocky Mountain Herbarium.
In the Museum of Vertebrates, they view real animal specimens, and gain experience in recognizing adaptive characteristics and traits that are used to distinguish species.
Foodwebs are the focus of their stop at the Stable Isotope Facility. Because all animals "are what they eat," scientists can learn a lot about diet when they investigate the isotopes of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen that make up the animals' tissues.
The students also had an opportunity to consider their own attitudes toward a controversial species: the prairie dog. A biodiversity keystone species, prairie dogs are regarded by some people as necessary components of a diverse and healthy prairie ecosystem. Others consider them pests because of the ways they modify their landscape. Understanding that there are two perspectives on prairie dogs is the first step in developing a species management plan, something many of these Wheatland students may need to do as adults.
© 2017 University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute.