Author:
Camila Vinson, Esther Yang
Subject:
Biology, Ecology, Genetics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lesson, Lesson Plan, Teaching/Learning Strategy
Level:
High School
Tags:
  • Conservation
  • Conservation Biology
  • Extinction
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Language:
    English

    Education Standards

    Extinction and De-extinction

    Extinction and De-extinction

    Overview

    Why do some organisms go extinct? What impact do humans play in the extinction of animals? What can we do about it? If something is extinct is it truly gone forever? 

    These are some of the major questions that conservation biologists are currently asking. Extinction is when a species no longer has any living members in the wild or in captivity. Extinction can happen for a number of reasons including habitat loss, overhunting, and climate change. Mass extinction is widespread extinction across many species. Right now, we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction event on Earth and it has been primarily caused human activity. Conservation biologists have been hard at work coming up with solutions to prevent extinction of organisms at risk, however, extinction still occurs. But does it have to be permanent? 

    This module walks students through the major processes that cause extinction, what strategies conservation has used so far to prevent extinction, what de-extinction is, and what consequences de-extinction may have through the use of videos, research, and a class debate. 

    Introduction

    Why do some organisms go extinct? What impact do humans play in the extinction of animals? What can we do about it? If something is extinct is it truly gone forever? 

    These are some of the major questions that conservation biologists are currently asking. Extinction is when a species no longer has any living members in the wild or in captivity. Extinction can happen for a number of reasons including habitat loss, overhunting, and climate change. Mass extinction is widespread extinction across many species. Right now, we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction event on Earth and it has been primarily caused human activity. Conservation biologists have been hard at work coming up with solutions to prevent extinction of organisms at risk, however, extinction still occurs. But does it have to be permanent? 

     

    Engage: What is Extinction?

    Watch these videos about extinction: 

    Extinction of Species | Evolution | Biology | FuseSchool
    When will the next mass extinction occur? - Borths, D'Emic, and Pritchard
    Are Endangered Species Worth Saving?

     

    What are your reactions? What ideas do you have to prevent extinction? 

    Explore: Endangered Animals and Preventing Extinction

    If students are working in groups, they can work together to do this research. 

    What can we do??

    Conservation biologists work to prevent the extinct of endangered species in the wild today. Use the graphic organizer below and use the internet to do research about 2 endangered species that you are interested in and what strategies conservation biologists use to protect these species

    Organism NameLocationCurrent Population SizeMajor ThreatsConservation Strategies
    Giant PandaNative to China1,864 in the wildHabitat loss; low birth ratesCreation of natural reserves; Government protection status
         
         

    If you can't find any conservation strategies that are being used to help out the organism(s) that you are researching, suggest ideas for what may help that species! 

    Explain: De-extinction

    For this portion, have students work in groups of at least 4 so that after each student finishes doing research on one of the organisms, they can share what they learned with their group and get information about the other organisms. 

    So we did the best we could, but organisms are still going extinct! But does extinction have to be permanent? 

    Scientists are currently conducting research on de-extinction in an attempt to revive species that have already gone extinct. Watch the videos and read the articles below about one of the four species that have efforts to bring them back from extinction! Work with your peers to get information about the other organisms after you finish. As you watch and read, take notes in this graphic organizer. 

    Organism NameHow did it go extinct?Reasoning for de-extinctionProgress
    Passenger Pigeon   
    Wooly Mammoth   
    Tasmanian Tiger   
    Gastric-brooding Frog   

    Read this!

    ‘The de-extinction club’: Could we resurrect mammoths, Tassie tigers and dinosaurs?

    Watch this!

    Can We Resurrect an Extinct Species? SHOULD WE?

    CHOOSE ONE:

    Passenger Pigeon: 

    Extinction Is Not Forever: Reviving the Passenger Pigeon with The Long Now Foundation's Ben Novak

    Woolly Mammoth: 

    Read: A New Company With a Wild Mission: Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth

    Bringing back the Woolly Mammoth to save the world | Ben Mezrich | TEDxBeaconStreet

    Tasmanian Tiger: 

    Second chance for tasmanian tigers and fantastic frogs: Michael Archer at TEDxDeExtinction

    Gastric-brooding Frog: 

    Second chance for tasmanian tigers and fantastic frogs: Michael Archer at TEDxDeExtinction

     

    Elaborate: Ethics of De-extinction

    Suggestions for how to facilitate debate: 

    Split class into two groups: "de-extinction is ethical and worthwhile to study" and "de-extinction is not ethical and not worthwhile to study". Groups can be assigned by the teacher or choosen by the students themselves. Each team has to construct their opening argument, evidence to use for rebuttals, 2 questions to give to the other team, and a closing statement. Students should use the two graphic organizers from earlier in the lesson to help with collecting evidence but they are also free to do more research to support their arguments. 

    Order of the debate: 

    1. Opening argument from "de-extinction is ethical and worthwhile to study" team

    2. Rebuttal from opposing team

    3. Opening argument from "de-extinction is not ethical and not worthwhile to study" team

    4. Rebuttal from opposing team

    5. Questioning back and forth between teams (this can take as long as you want)

    6. Closing statement from "de-extinction is not ethical and not worthwhile to study" team

    7. Closing statement from "de-extinction is ethical and worthwhile to study" team'

    For very large classes, have two smaller debates and let the other half of class be an audience for the debate and assess the student participating in the debate. 

    Now that you have learned about conservation strategies to prevent extinction and the new science of de-extinction, it is time for you to evaluate the pros and cons of each method. With your peers, you will have debate around the question: 

    Is de-extinction ethical and should we continue researching it?

    In preparation for the debate, as a team create: 

    • An argument defending your side
    • Have 3 pieces of evidence to support your statement either from the videos and readings you have done before or from further research 
    • 2 questions for the opposing team

    Once you have that material...it is debate time! 

    Evaluate: Final Thoughts

    Great job with the debate! Now it is time for you to take what you have learned throughout this lesson and what you have learned from listening to your peers to make a final statement about extinction and de-extinction. Write a short answer response to one of the prompts below: 

    • Should resources be dedicated to de-extinction efforts? 
    • What role should humans have in response to the extinction of other species?