Topics Explored: Ecosystems, Population, Percent Change, Gather-Reason-Communicate with Evidence

This case study explores the the decline and rise of the American black bear (Ursus americanus) population in New Jersey, their interactions with people in America’s most densely populated state, cultural carrying capacity, and the dilemmas faced by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Answer key included.

Case Study: New Jersey Black Bears (Teacher & Student Edition)

  • ZIP file containing 2 PDF files 
    (1 Teacher Edition and 1 Student Edition)

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):
    HS-LS2-1. Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.
    HS-LS2-2. Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
    HS-LS2-6. Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
    HS-ESS2-7. Construct an argument based on evidence about the simultaneous coevolution of Earth’s systems and life on Earth.


    AP® Environmental Science Learning Objectives:
    2.1 Explain levels of biodiversity and their importance to ecosystems.
    2.3 Describe island biogeorgraphy. Describe the role of island biogeography in evolution. 
    3.1 Identify differences between generalist and specialist species.
    3.2 Identify differences between K- and r-selected species.
    3.3 Explain survivorship curves.
    3.4  Describe carrying capacity. Describe the impact of carrying capacity on ecosystems.
    3.5 Explain how resource availability affects population growth.

    AP® Environmental Science Practices:
    1: Explain environmental concepts, processes, and models presented in written format. 
    2: Analyze visual representations of environmental concepts and processes. 
    3: Analyze sources of information about environmental issues. 
    4: Analyze research studies that test environmental principles. 
    5: Analyze and interpret quantitative data represented in tables, charts, and graphs.
    6: Apply quantitative methods to address environmental concepts.
    7: Propose and justify solutions to environmental problems.


    IB Environmental Systems Learning Objectives:
    2.1.5 Discuss how the pyramid structure affects the functioning of an ecosystem.
    2.1.6 Define the terms species, population, habitat, niche, community and ecosystem with reference to local examples.
    2.1.7 Describe and explain population interactions using examples of named species.
    2.4.2 Explain the distribution, structure and relative productivity of tropical rainforests, deserts, tundra and any other biomes.
    2.6.1 Explain the concepts of limiting factors and carrying capacity in the context of population growth.
    2.6.3 Describe the role of density-dependent and density-independent factors, and interal and external factors, in the regulation of populations.
    2.6.4 Describe the principles associated with survivorship curves including, K- and r- strategists.
    2.6.5 Describe the concept and process of succession in a named habitat.



    AP® is a registered trademark registered by the College Board®. IB® is a trademark registered by the International Baccalaureate Organization®. This work/product/service has been developed independently from and is not endorsed by the College Board® or the International Baccalaureate Organization®.