Students in Michelle Stuart’s Pre-AP Biology class at Frenship HS are studying ecology, energy, and food webs by dissecting owl pellets. Stuart brought this hands-on activity into the lab as a way to develop their observation skills. They have to investigate each piece and classify it as a certain type of bone and they also have to identify whether their findings are rodents, shrews, moles or birds.
Q: What does the study teach students?
Stuart: This study allows the students to see how owls fit into their food chain. From the type of organisms found in the owl pellet, the students can determine the health of an ecosystem and the biodiversity present.
Q: What was the students’ reaction to their findings?
Stuart: At first, the students are a little grossed out, but after they get into the activity, they enjoy finding the different parts of the skeletons. They get excited to find intact skulls and other various parts of the skeleton. They are often surprised at the small size of the skeletons. One student told me that he liked this lab because it was a new experience for him and he had never seen actual bones. Another student told me that it is interesting to search through the fur to find the bones.
Q: What is your favorite part of leading the study?
Stuart: I enjoy watching them get into the dissection and really find something that they’ve never seen. They get really quiet and start looking intently as they search to find as many bones as they can.
Below are photos from inside the lab experience!