Suggest videos to use when teaching intro ecology!

In my experience, students love watching videos in class, and using them can draw students into material in a way that regular lecturing does not. So, I thought it would be useful to compile a list of videos that people have found helpful for teaching about concepts typically covered in ecology courses (or the ecology section of courses like Intro Bio). These could be videos that explain the story behind a classic study, demonstrate a key concept (who doesn’t love a good interference competition or predation video?!), give an explanation of a difficult concept, or are just plain captivating.

I will post a full list, organized by topic, combining the ones I use (or have used in the past) with those suggested in the comments of this post (with credit given to the person who suggested it, of course!) That post will appear in two weeks, so please try to suggest your favorite videos by Wednesday, September 11.

11 thoughts on “Suggest videos to use when teaching intro ecology!

  1. I will look forward to this compiled list! Always looking for a few good videos to include to break things up. Here are a few early in the rotation, I’ll try to find time to add more later:
    1. Frozen Frogs, from NOVA, complete with dorky scientist jokes about sex.
    2. Drives home, through bad example, that Ecology is NOT Environmental Science, despite the title “What is Ecology”
    3. Kelp forests, as most students will never see these first hand:
    While on kelp, a later one covering urchin barrens:

    4. Classic from deep sea vents:
    5. Two for beetles in Namibia with very different strategies for dealing with physiological stress:
    6. A colleague (Shannon Murphy) alerted me to this, to perk up the slog of described spatial population structure – why would hummingbirds nest preferentially near hawk nests? (have to navigate to between 35-39 minutes
    7. This is just audio, and I send out links rather than listening in class, but pretty much anything on RadioLab! In particularly, Alan Rabinowitz and the first jaguar preserve and an episode on parasites guaranteed to make them squirm (best story is near the end, on hookworms)

  2. I’m preparing a lecture on interactions between organisms (particularly ‘ecosystem engineers’) and resources, and will show ‘the dance of the mussels’ by Johan van de Koppel:

    This 8-second time laps video shows how juvenile blue mussels placed in a random pattern in indoor tanks form regular ‘string-like’ patterns similar to those that mussels form in the field. A few neat field experiments (van de Koppel et al. 2005 Science) showed that the pattern is formed because of a trade-off between i) competition for food (which increases with local mussel density) and ii) the risk for dis-lodgement due to wave action (which decreases with local density).

  3. For discussing adaptation I like to show lots of examples and so I use about 20 minutes of footage of the most eye-catching examples from the Life of Birds episode Fishing for a Living. And I recently saw this clip and might use it: It takes a few minutes to actually get to the adaptations but I think students will enjoy the whole thing.

    Some of the Wild Sex clips

    Extinction: The Thin Green Line:

    Various topics: The Queen of Trees:

    Invasive species: Invasion of the Giant Pythons:

  4. David Attenborough’s Private Life of Plants ( has a neat little segment on Devil’s Garden’s based on a paper in Nature:

    It is a cool example of plant-animal interactions. I usually show the clip and then segue into a class discussion on how to design an experiment to test the hypotheses in the paper, based on suggestions in the following resource:

  5. Pingback: Friday links: in praise of “token” women, solving the two body problem, and more | Dynamic Ecology

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