Species & Habitats
Activity 4 - Competition between red and grey squirrels: preparing a scientific report
Background for teachers
The red squirrel is one of the most threatened of UK mammals. Once widely distributed, the red squirrel has suffered a marked population loss and decline over the last 50 years; 75% of the UK population is in Scotland. Competition with the introduced grey squirrel is the major threat facing this species.
Science Standard Grade
A Study of Environments - Interdependence and populations: competition
Biology Standard Grade
Investigating an ecosystem: how it works – competition
Biology Advanced Higher
Interactions in ecosystems: competition
Managing Environmental Resources Intermediate 1
Effects of human activity on the local environment
Managing Environmental Resources Intermediate 2
Impact of human activities on ecosystems – endangered species; conservation.
Curriculum for Excellence
This activity will help pupils achieve the four capacities of learning by:
- encouraging enthusiasm and motivation for learning;
- encouraging openness to new thinking and ideas;
- use of literacy skills;
- use of technology for learning;
- thinking creatively and independently;
- making reasoned evaluations;
- evaluating environmental issues;
- applying critical thinking in new contexts, and
- creating and developing.
Pupils research and write a scientific report on the competition between red and grey squirrels. In their report they should include:
- differences in appearance and weight between the two species;
- the habitat of both species;
- why the species are competing;
- when did the competition between the species start and why; and the
- impact of competition on red squirrels.
Pupils should illustrate their reports using photos and also with distribution maps for both species from the National Biodiversity Network gateway website.
Pupils view maps for both red and grey squirrels for the periods 1960-1980; 1980-2000 and 2000-2005. Using the maps pupils describe distribution trends for the period 1960-2005 for each species in Scotland. Pupils then compare trends in distribution for both species in Scotland.
Advanced Higher Biology pupils can also illustrate the concept of the fundamental niche and resource partitioning using competition between these species. In addition they should highlight the damaging effects of an exotic species (grey squirrel).
The websites below will help pupils’ research.
- www.ayrshireredsquirrels.org.uk www.highlandredsquirrel.co.uk
- National Biodiversity Network gateway