The Beetle Invasion: New Activity on Talking Science

Southern Pine Beetle

Today’s post on Talking Science, Forest Pests: Beetle Attack!, describes an activity in which participants play the role of forester who creates strategies to deal with a forest pest. While a certain level of damage to forests from pests is unavoidable and can even be healthy for a forest ecosystem, modern management techniques must consider protection against these pesky critters. In this activity, participants quantify the damage to an imagined forest plantation and consider the costs and benefits of different strategies. The activity uses two game boards, one depicting a montotypic stand of pine trees and one depicting a mixed stand. Each player acts as a land manager who plans to sell the trees to pulp and timber companies. The object is to maximize profits while facing the possibility of beetle infestation. The trees are worth more every year as they grow larger, but if they become infected with beetles, they will be worth less. Adapted with permission from Biology in a Box, this hands-on activity is geared toward 9th-12th grade levels and covers the subjects of ecology, mathematics and forestry. More Biology by Numbers posts can be found at the Talking Science website. Talking Science is a project of the radio program NPR’s Science Friday.

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