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Breaking into the Seed Bank!
Lynn Vaccaro
2003-2004 Fellow

This short research project allows students to explore concepts related to plant adaptations, biodiversity and ecosystem stability while engaging in their own investigations of a local seed bank. A natural “seed bank” consists of the seeds or propagules (e.g., root fragments) that lie dormant in soil until the right conditions trigger their growth. Using a simple protocol, students will germinate the seeds that naturally exist in a soil sample and measure the abundance (total number) and estimate the diversity (number of different types) of these seeds. Students will establish their own comparison to better understand how a chosen variable (e.g., site, vegetation, soil depth, germination conditions) influences the number and diversity of viable seeds. A seed bank investigation provides a natural link between concepts in plant biology, ecology and the local environment. Ideally the study should be placed within the context of a local conservation, restoration or agricultural issue.

This curriculum was developed by Lynn Vaccaro, a graduate student in Natural Resources. The curriculum was piloted and refined in Mary Jo Doyle’s and Laurie Assermily’s 10th grade biology classes at Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls, NY.

Downloadable WORD files:

Teacher's Guide
Teacher's Guide to the Student Reading (with answers)

Student Files:




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