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A forest has a greater amount of biodiversity than a desert. The term biodiversity refers to the variety of living things that can be found in a particular area. One of the easiest ways to measure the biodiversity in an area is to count how many different species live there. Another helpful measurement is to also count the number of individual members of each species in the area.
Your challenge in this activity will be to count and chart the biodiversity in a small area near your school or home.


  • Tennis ball
  • Meter stick
  • 8 meters of string
  • Four popsicle sticks (or similar)
  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Clipboard (optional)
Safety concerns: As with all science lab activities, the most important safety rule is to follow all teacher directions.


  1. Step out into your yard at school or at home. Turn your back on the largest part of the yard and toss the tennis ball back over your shoulder into the yard.
  2. Go to where the tennis ball landed and use the meter stick, string and popsicle sticks to stake out a square area that is two meters on each side of the tennis ball (you won't need the tennis ball again; it was only used to randomly select your area).
  3. The square outlined by your string is your study area.
  4. Describe the area by writing in your laboratory journal. Describe the location. (The middle of a lawn? A wilder part of the yard?) Be specific as you describe the abiotic and biotic factors that influence this small area. (Does this area get watered regularly?  Is it grassy or rocky?)
  5. Now take paper and pencil and walk slowly around the outside of your study area counting the different species of plants inside the square. It doesn't matter if you know the names of the species. It may be helpful to collect a sample from each species so you can tell them apart in the next step.
  6. Make a data table similar to the one here. Change the number of columns to be the same as the number of species you found.
    Species 1
    Species 2
    Species 3
    Species 4
    Species 5
  7. Walk slowly around your study area again and count the number of organisms of each species.Estimate where you must, but be as accurate as you can. Write the total for each species in your data table.


  1. Compare your data to those of other friends. Compare the descriptions they wrote in step 4 of the procedure with the description you wrote.
  2. How is the number of organisms similar or different as you compare your survey area and that of your friends?
  3. Were all plots equal in the number of each type of organism that is present in the plot?
  4. How would you describe the similarities and differences between your area and at least one area studied by a friend?
  5. What abiotic and biotic factors were different in the two study plots?
  6. Why do you think the study areas were similar or different?
Visit Pioneer Library and search for the e-Media video "Animal Biology The Hippopotamus"
Review science lab safety rules here.

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE Earth Systems Science core.


Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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