How Biologists Study an Elusive Mammal, the Wolverine

Performance Tasks

Student will complete a graphic organizer while viewing a video about wolverine study in Montana. Student will create a flow chart describing the process of setting up remote cameras and hair snares to collect wolverine DNA.

Vocabulary

elusive, radio collar, watershed

Warm-Up

Pass out charts to students (or have them create the chart on their own.) Student will fill in the chart while viewing the video This American Land: “A Wolverine’s World.” Lead student discussion after viewing the video using the chart as a starting point. 

Instruction

Teacher will review the process of studying wolverines in remote regions of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Teachers and students will discuss the enormous range wolverines need, and why snow is so important to their survival. This lesson combines science and geography. On a map of the lower 48 states, highlight the 500 square mile travels of the wolverine in the story. Then highlight a 500 square mile area around your school’s hometown, to give students a better idea of the vast territory this mammal covers. 

Other Questions to Ask:

What are some of the obstacles scientists studying wolverines might face, and how can they prepare to overcome these difficulties? (cold weather, snowmobile breaking down, equipment not working, etc) Would you like to do this kind of research? What human activity nearly wiped out the wolverine in the United States early in the 20th century? What events and activities are threatening these animals right now? 

More information:

FWS.gov 
WCS.org 

Student Practice

Student will create a flow chart describing the process of a wolverine field study. Student will draw each step, or use available computers to illustrate each step. The steps include: Identifying wolverine habitat, assembling tools, cameras, bait, and other equipment needed to gather evidence of wolverine activity, traveling to remote sites and installing scientific equipment, retrieving video and hair samples, then analyzing those samples in a laboratory.

Summarization

Student will write a concluding statement connecting the fieldwork of scientists to an understanding of how a wolverine survives. If needed, students can use the starter sentence: Understanding the behavior of the small number of wolverines in the northern Rockies will help researchers __________. 

Standard:
Describe how scientists work in creative ways to understand how wolverines live and travel
Time needed:
50 minutes

Teacher Guide

Resource Packet

Download our Resource Packet to aid you in your lesson plans. Feel free to selectively use the pages you think will most benefit your students.

ResourcePacket.pdf