Tipping the Balance: Tracking the Threat to Biodiversity Posed by Non-native Invasive Species*
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Grade: 11th - 12th grade
Class: Environmental Science
Author: Kate Bartholomew
NYS Content Area Standard:
Math, Science & Technology:
Standard 1: Analysis, Inquiry and Design
Standard 4: Science
NYS Interdisciplinary Standard:
English Language Arts:
Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding
Standard 3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation
Adirondack Curriculum Content Area:
Natural HistoryHuman History
Performance Indicators:

ELA: 1 & 3. Language for Critical Analysis and Interpretation

MST: 1 [1.2, 2.2, 2.3, 3.5] and 4 [1.1, 6.1, 6.2, 7.2]

Social Studies: 1. History of the United States & New York

Keywords: invasive species, GPS
The Challenge:
Investigative Question or Issue: What is the extent of biodiversity in the Adirondacks, and how is it being threatened by the proliferation of Non-native Invasive Species on the Forest?

Ideal interdisciplinary challenge.

Note from ACP: Challenge was originally written to have students investigate both the Finger Lakes National Forest (the author is from the area) and the Adirondacks and was modified to meet the requirements of the ACP web site. It would be a great project for an Adirondack teacher to contact the author and have their students each research their own area and then collaborate to compare the results.

The Challenge:

The Adirondack Park is rich in biodiversity and varied habitat. Within the last two centuries, it has been significantly impacted, either in part or in whole, by human activity. And now the Park's health is threatened by Non-native Invasive Species (NNIS). 

Students will work in groups of various sizes, depending on the portion of the project being addressed. Portions of the project will be accomplished collectively, while other elements will be apportioned to group work.

Throughout the course of the project, students will keep an individual participation log which the teacher will review at random intervals over the course of the challenge.

In teacher designed groups, students will, with guidance from the teacher, research and investigate general historic land use patterns of the areas currently designated as the Adirondack Park. Students should pay particular attention to areas of agricultural activity, logging and settlement, which will be designated by colored/patterned overlays on USGS topo maps of the regions. Also, it is important that students note when these activities ceased and the Park was created. 

Again, the students will be divided into groups. With teacher facilitation, students will utilize the resources indicated, as well as contact individual experts to catalog the general level of biodiversity in the Park, highlighting especially areas of greatest bidiversity, areas with especially unique habitat and/or sensitive, threatened or endangered species. If possible, students will obtain geographic coordinates for these areas, enabling to graphically represent this information, as accurately as possible as another set of map overlays.

Now, in groups of 2 or 3, students will choose one of the top 10 terrestrial NNIS threatening the biodiversity in the Adirondack Park, conduct research and create an information resource for others in the class detailing the geographic origin of that particular NNIS, when it was introduced to the area, which native species it competes with, methods/actions/characteristics responsible for its success, preferred habitat, impact on [how it changes] the ecosystem, possible eradication and control measures, etc. The product must be in one of the following formats: brochure, poster, press release, flyer. It must be colorful [include photos of NNIS and species it competes with], accurate, concise and understandable. References must be included.

With this information in hand, students will, in groups of three, be assigned a 3 to 4 mile section of trail in the Adirondack Park. In a series of field trips, each group will identify, mark the GPS location of, and estimate the extent of each occurrence of all the NNIS on its trail section. Students will then return to the school and translate this information into polygon map coordinates on a map of the Adirondack Park using ARCView 9.2, being certain to uniquely designate each different NNIS. This information will be combined as a final overlay on a USGS topo map of the Forest.

Finally, in groups of 4, students will, based on research done about the NNIS, the locations of greatest biological diversity and sensitivity, the geographic landscape, and current location of infestation of NNIS on Forest trails, develop a position paper explaining where you believe biodiversity is most threatened such that you recommend the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation focus their efforts on erradication and control and why. Each group will offer their recommendations to the APA and DEC, accompanied by the extensive display board of supporting material created by the whole class.

Class presentations of collected findings, with each group sharing its recommendations with representatives of the APA and DEC. 


Product of the 2008 ACP Biodiversity Workshop, funded by a grant from the New York Biodiversity Research Institute.

Quality Standards:

Individual Participation Log:

  • entries for each day of project work
  • research notes
  • field data from collection trips

Historic land-use maps of the Adirondack Park:

  • accuracy of historic information
  • completed within time designated
  • clear distinction between different types of land-use

Biodiversity Inventory Map of the Adirondack Park:

  • accuracy of information
  • completed within time designated
  • clear depiction of varying levels of biodiversity, as well as presence of any sensitive, threatened or endangered species

NNIS of the Adirondacks Reports

  • accuracy of information
    • method/route/time of introduction
    • native plants it competes with
    • actions/characteristics responsible for its success
    • preferred habitat
    • impact to ecosystem
    • control/erradication methods
  • completed within time designated
  • color photos
  • double spaced
  • complies with one of the following forms: brochure, poster, press release or flyer
  • references cited

NNIS Inventory and Mapping of the trails in the Park

  • completion within time designated
  • accurate use of GIS
  • mapping of entire trail section
  • unique designation for each different NNIS

Position Paper with Recommendations for Focus of Erradication/Control Efforts

  • completion within time designated
  • rational, reasoned recommendations


  • professional appearance
  • poise and confidence
  • clear, articulate delivery
  • participation by each group member in presentation
Product Quality Checklist
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Standard/Criteria: Points Possible: Points Awarded:

NNIS of Adirondacks Reports

  • completed on time


  • accurate information including:
  1. method/route/time of introduction  (10)
  2. native plants it competes with/displaces   (10)
  3. actions/characteristics responsible for its success   (10)
  4. referred habitat  (10)
  5. impact to ecosystem  (10)
  6. control/eradication methods  (10)


  • color photos


  • is one of the following: brochure, poster, flyer, press release


  • references cited


NNIS Mapping and Inventory of the Adirondack trails

  • completed on time  (10)
  • demonstrates proficiency with GPS/GIS  (35)
  • maps entire trail section  (30)
  • creates unique designation for each different NNIS  (25)


Position Paper with Recommendations for Focus of Erradication/Control Efforts

  • completed on time  (10)
  • rational, well-reasoned recommendations  (30)



  • professional appearance  (10)
  • poise and confidence  (10)
  • clear, articulate delivery  (20)
  • participation by each member of group in presentation  (20)


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