For this activity, students should reread chapters 6-7, "After Fire" and "The Prairie," in class. They should focus on how scientists in the story monitor the burned area of the forest and answer questions on their Ricky’s Atlas Revisited student sheet. This sheet provides answers to the questions.
1. How are the scientists monitoring the burned site in the forest following the fire?
They establish transects in the burned area to monitor the organisms that return to what is left of the forest after the fire.
2. How did they use transects to monitor the burned site?
Transect lines can be used to systematically mark an area for careful observation over time. Scientists or forest managers can return to the same forested area again and again if permanent transect lines are used. This allows them to monitor how plants and animals respond to a burned area over time.
3. What would be an advantage and a disadvantage to using transects to monitor an area?
One big advantage to using transect lines is that they help people study patterns of habitat regeneration (forest, prairie, wetland, etc.) after a disturbance (fire, wind storm, drought, etc.). Permanently established transect lines can allow for long-term study of a disturbed area. Unfortunately, transect line observations don’t always take into account all of the changes or species in an area. Often species that grow in small numbers can be underestimated or missed completely when using a transect line or grid. Transect lines are usually used on the ground and observations of species that live in a forest canopy or underground are not counted. They also need to be maintained, which takes time and effort.
4. What kinds of data are being collected at the burned site in the forest?
They counted living trees vs. non-living trees and height of burn marks. See an example data sheet on page 94.
5. Using transects to monitor the same area can be done for many years. What kinds of changes to the burned area would you predict the scientists would see over many years of monitoring transects?
Student answers may vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.
This teacher sheet is a part of the Ricky's Atlas lesson.