Ecosystem On Mars

Biological Sciences

INTRODUCTION

This WebQuest is intended to have learners use collaboration, creativity, and internet resources to explore the principles and characteristics of ecosystems and apply their knowledge designing self-sustaining ones to be used during space journey and after landing the planet Mars. For this purpose, they should have an understanding of energy flow through ecosystems (energy pyramid, food chains, and the basic niches (producers, consumers, decomposers).

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
- Aldo Leopold, 1948

 

TASK

Hello, folks!

You are part of a secret NASA project that has to design a future mission to Mars Your specific task is to design two sustainable ecosystems – one adapted for the spaceship and the other developed regarding the specific Martian conditions. Be careful! It will be a long journey that is expected to take at least 6 months and you will have to consider every detail. However, you should keep in mind that you will not have much space and your ecosystems should be sustainable and well-functioning. To do this you must take care of your ecsystems’ internal balance and anticipate their development.


But before that, here are some things you will need to know:

  1. The goal of this WebQuest is to help you understand ecosystems in terms of their functioning as self-sustaining communities. You have to explore the main principles of ecosystems and use them to create projects for sustainable ones.
  2. The learners should work in two groups of 5 to 10 people. Each one of them should explore the principles of ecosystems and develop an understanding so that he/she can use them to design a new one. There should be formed two teams of scientists – one to choose species and design a space ecosystem to serve different purposes during the long journey (for example, providing oxygen, fresh food, supporting astronauts’ psychic health, etc.) and another team responsible for designing an experimental ecosystem to be created on Mars. The two research teams should prepare PP presentations to share their ideas and discuss how the two projects could be combined in the best possible way. Although the two teams have separate tasks they should work together to support a successful mission to Mars.
  3. The information should be well organized, factual, and well-formed. It is important to demonstrate a good level of internet and technology use.

PROCESS

At this step, each learner needs to use the online resources for this Webquest and research what are ecosystems’ characteristics and fundamental principles. When you go through the resources listed below you should pay special attention to the energy flow you have to design in the ecosystems you are going to create, and have in mind the water and carbon cycles.

When you think about how your ecosystem will start you definitely will need to know what an autotroph is. Have a look at this encyclopedic entry: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/autotroph/

When you consider the autotroph you are going to begin with, you will be able to think accordingly about the next levels of consumers.

RESOURCES

What is an ecosystem?

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/ecosystem/ 
https://sciencing.com/characteristics-ecosystem-6318071.html 
https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-biology2xmaster/chapter/ecosystem-ecology/ 
http://www.globalsystemsscience.org/studentbooks/ef/ch9 
https://www.learner.org/series/the-habitable-planet-a-systems-approach-to-environmental-science/ecosystems/online-textbook/

 

Ecosystem in space:

https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Research/An_ecosystem_in_a_box 
https://zero-gravity.pubpub.org/pub/ecosphereinspace/release/3 
https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/lifesupport.html 
https://www.nasa.gov/content/growing-plants-in-space 
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/plants-flowers-international-space-station-moon-mars/581491/ 
https://www.wired.co.uk/article/algae-long-term-space-missions 
https://qz.com/909040/algae-and-cyanobacteria-survived-two-years-exposed-to-outer-space-on-the-international-space-station/ 

 

Planet Mars and developing an ecosystem on it:
https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/planet-mars.html 
https://mars.nasa.gov/science/goals/ 
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-journal-of-astrobiology/article/sustainable-life-support-on-mars-the-potential-roles-of-cyanobacteria/F22A6C3C0016A98155F0EA78D91D0FB2/core-reader 
https://theconversation.com/how-to-grow-crops-on-mars-if-we-are-to-live-on-the-red-planet-99943 
https://www.ift.org/news-and-publications/food-technology-magazine/issues/2018/april/columns/iftnext-growing-crops-for-cultivation-on-marsiding 
https://www.danielbbotkin.com/2013/08/24/how-to-live-on-mars-the-ecology-of-mars-colonization/ 
https://www.wur.nl/en/newsarticle/A-sustainable-agricultural-ecosystem-for-Mars-and-the-moon.htm 
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/planting-an-ecosystem-on-mars 
https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast26jan_1/ 
https://www.ift.org/news-and-publications/food-technology-magazine/issues/2018/april/columns/iftnext-growing-crops-for-cultivation-on-mars 

CONCLUSION

"I think in understanding how to build an artificial biosphere and make it work we will provide more information about how to keep this one going. Even at best, any biosphere that we could construct for centuries to come is going to be a mere shadow of what we have every day on the Earth",
- John Rummel (https://www.space.com/41818-earth-biodiversity-conservation-lessons-from-space.html)

Humans are a resilient species and we do learn and teach others quickly. This capability to communicate and cooperate may be our greatest tool. As it is stated in the following video (https://www.ted.com/talks/lisa_nip_how_humans_could_evolve_to_survive_in_space/) maybe humans will use their creativity to design species to survive the hard conditions of a long space journey and foreign planets. But even if these specially designed species can survive the hard conditions of extraterrestrial worlds, they would be able to do this only by keeping an internal balance of their ecosystem, which is the next and maybe more difficult step.

It is almost sure that someday humans will go to other planets and this may happen even sooner than most of us suppose according to this TED lecturer: https://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_petranek_your_kids_might_live_on_mars_here_s_how_they_ll_survive/transcript

However, until that happens considering the difficulties of creating an ecosystem on another planet could help us realize the beauty of our own and try to save its unique diversity.

Meanwhile, you can make a final Mars photo of your team using the NASA webpage: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/photo-booth/ and keep it as a souvenir from your work in this WebQuest.

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Funded by
sCOOL-IT erasmus logo EN

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Talk To Us

t: +357 2466 40 40
f: +357 2465 00 90
escool.it@scool-it.eu

Funded by
sCOOL-IT erasmus logo EN

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Talk To Us

t: +357 2466 40 40
f: +357 2465 00 90
escool.it@scool-it.eu

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