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Return of the wild

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Title: Return of the wild

Date: 1st March 2014
Author: Sara Reardon
Source: New Scientist
Science category: Ecology/Conservation
Style: Popular science magazine article

Summary: This article talks about the concept of ‘rewilding’ that has been a hot topic in the conservation circles. The idea is to return large areas of land to their natural state, rebuilding ecosystems and reintroducing species that have long since vanished. This would include animals such as wolves and bears, which have been actively exterminated because they were detrimental to the interests of human settlers or farmers. One of the ways to replace species that are gone for good such as dodo, moa-nalo, the giant Hawaiian duck is to introduce alien species in hope that they will do the same jobs as the ones long gone.

The article poses a number of ethical dilemmas: is this a good idea or are we foolishly meddling with nature? Are we dealing with outcomes we cannot predict?

Audience: Year 9, VCE Biology and Environmental Science
Implications or links to teaching science: This article would be great for VCE level students in biology or environmental science (because its length and complexity). In order for students to be able to analyse and discuss this topic they will need to employ critical thinking skills and apply deep scientific understanding. It also asks the students to submit subjective views on a topic that is in the forefront of current issues in the areas of environment, ecology and conservation.

The key questions that arise:
Reconsider what ‘nature’ really is. – What is true wilderness?
Are the landscapes that we know today natural or largely artificial?
How have we damaged our ecosystems?
What are the consequences?
Consider the history, present and future.
If projects such as ‘rewilding’ are successful what would be our descendants’ views of nature and what is natural?

Links to AusVELS:
Biological sciences – Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems.
The key issues discussed in the article could be brought up in this unit: e.g. removal of a key species affects the entire ecosystem.
Biology VCE:
Unit2 – Organisms and their environment.
Environmental science VCE:
Unit 1 – Environment (all areas of study)
Unit 2 – Monitoring the environment (all areas of study)
Unit 3 – Ecological issues – Energy and biodiversity (areas of study 2 – Diversity in the biosphere)
Unit 4 – Ecological sustainability (areas of study 2 – Applied environmental science)

The article can be linked to many of the areas of study in VCE Environmental science course. Its inclusion in the course would allow the students to critically examine the issues presented based on their existing knowledge and suggest possible outcomes and solutions.

Reardon, S. (2014). Return of the wild, New Scientist, March 2014, No. 2958, pp. 40-43.

Return of the wild: Library search.

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