1.5 – Features of habitat

Research on the tundra

We looked up Planet Zork’s tundra habitat and we realised there were 2 kinds of tundras: the arctic tundra and alpine tundra. From what we know of Planet Zork, its habitat is an arctic tundra as it is not specifically on a high mountain.


Conditions of a tundra:

  • extremely low temperatures
  • little precipitation (<– geography)
  • simple vegetation with no deep root systems
  • limited drainage
  • short summers of 50-60 days
  • permanent layer of frozen soil (permafrost)
  • top layer of soil turns waterlogged in summer
  • slowly decaying layer of dead matter

Animals in the tundra are

  1. adapted to handle long, cold winters
  2. breed and raise young quickly in the summer
  3. Mammals and birds have additional insulation from fat
  4. Many hibernate during the winter because of scarcity of food.
  5. Or: Migrate south in the winter, like birds do.

Plants are

  1. short and group together to withstand strong winds, cold temperatures
  2. photosynthesize in low light conditions
  3. most reproduce asexually and quickly within the short summers
  4. roots run horizontally rather than vertically into the soil (due to permafrost)

This gave us a better idea of the conditions our organisms had to face. After a brief discussion, we decided that our microhabitat would be on a plain as its conditions are not as harsh as those on the mountains.

–> But our organisms would not have shelter in this way 😦

So, we decided to include a mountain with caves as their shelter. This list summarises the habitat layout and the abiotic factors in it.


  • Plain (grassland)
  • Covered with short plants that are clustered together
  • A mountain with caves is located at the far end of the grassland

Influential abiotic factors

  • Temperature – Low
  • Seasons
  1. Winter – extremely low temp., long
  2. Summer – warmer temp., short
  • Wind – strong
  • Soil – permafrost present in winter, waterlogged in summer
  • Water – little rainfall
  • Light – little sunlight


How a cell works

Cell shapes

The 4 basic shapes of prokaryotes

Coccus (pl. cocci) – spherical
Spirillum (pl. spirilla) – spiral-shaped
Bacillus (pl. bacilli) – pill-shaped
Vibrio – comma-shaped


The cytoskeleton gives them their shape: http://etap.org/demo/biology1/instructiontutor_last.html

Animal cells have irregular shapes. Plant cells have regular and generally rectangular shapes.



Diagram of cell



Similar to

Cell membrane –  Protects the cell

–  Controls the movement of substances in and out of the cell

Cytoplasm Allows organelles and substances to move within the cell Blood
Ribosome Synthesizes proteins, which are involved in virtually every cell function

(e.g. providing support, movement)


– almost everything, from bones to muscles

Mitochondrion (pl. …dria) Site for respiration to provide the cell with energy Stomach & small intestines
Nucleus –  Controls all activities within the cell

–  Protects the cell’s genetic information (i.e DNA)





What did the video compare the cell with? Why?

–> I have no idea what the video is…



Picture of prokaryote shapes
http://www.biologycorner.com/lesson-plans/cells/ –> useful website
Picture of plant cell
Cell Diagram and functions of organelles
Function of proteins in a cell


Miss Tan, how do you think I can improve my BIN? Looking back, I don’t think I did a very good job so far as my posts were a little convoluted (in my opinion), compared to Hui Min and Clarice’s ones.

Could you give me some comments, please? 🙂

Reflection on the Harvard project

I think the games were generally quite interesting. The themes (is this the right word?) chosen were different from the textbook and are linked to real-world problems. It made me feel like completing the game had a purpose as compared to blindly remembering information from the textbook, or as you put it in chinese, 死记.

The method of play, where I had to collect evidence and evaluate them by myself, was also more purposeful. In short I think this way of learning was more meaningful as it allowed me to learn things not found in the textbook, namely scientific skills.

However the game was quite hard to play. The “stage” kept spinning whenever I moved my avatar, which was both annoying and made me giddy. The distances between the farms was also annoying. When I wanted to collect more evidence to support my claim, I had to run a long distance to the farms which was time-consuming and broke my train of thought.
The post-game survey was long and the questions were repetitive, from my point of view. I think the questions could have been phrased differently to allow easier understanding of them. For example, one question asked, “State why you thought the instructions were clear/unclear”. To me, it seemed very redundant and I had no idea what they were asking me to do. 😦


I forgot to take the screenshots. Sorry! >.< Rest assured I completed both games and their postgame surveys.

Reflection b2 – The Smart and Swinging Bonobos


New info:

What are bonobos?

  • Great apes
  • Endangered
  • One of the closest relatives to humans together with the chimpanzee
  • They closely resemble us—bipedal and have body proportions closer to ours than chimpanzees

Their behavior

  • Generally regarded as peaceful, although they do have violent territorial disputes
  • Gregarious with social hierarchy within their troop
  • Females have some authority in the troop, a first compared to other apes
  • Exhibit emotions such as jealousy
  • Close bonds between mothers and sons
  • Males are attentive and affectionate to infants
  • Highly intelligent and can communicate with humans using a huge variety of symbols and vocabulary

Threats to bonobos

  • Their habitat has been overrun by soldiers due to civil wars in the region
  • They have been slaughtered for food
  • The surging human population has encroached onto their habitat, reducing habitat size

What’s Interesting:

  •  Bonobos settle disputes by mating.
  • Their intelligence is far superior than I thought. There was an experiment where 8 bonobos were moved into an 18-room house, where they could operate doors, press symbols to get snacks from a vending machine and watch movies by pressing buttons on a computer screen. It was as though they were living like humans.

My Opinion:

What if humans did not evolve from chimps and bonobos, or remained as hunter-gatherers?


Reflection b1 – The Discover Interview with Jane Goodall

Picture source

New info

Chimps are more human than I expected

  • They make tools
  • They hunt, adopt orphans and drum on tree roots in ritual-like displays
  • They have distinctive personalities
  • They express emotions and have strong bonds of support between family members

The threats faced by the chimpanzees

  • they are confined in Gombe Stream national park because there are no trees to provide cover for them
  • when they venture outside the park, they come into contact with humans and catch illnesses from them

What can be done to help them effectively

  • provide aid and education for the people living around the park, especially helping women and children
  • as women’s education improves, family size will go down and the human population around the park will be more sustainable
  • educate the people on how to sustain the environment without affecting their lives, such as by letting tree stumps regenerate


What’s interesting:

  • Chimpanzees are more like humans than I thought. They not only use tools but can express emotions just like we do
  • In some ways chimpanzees actually seem more successful than us. They never destroy the forest and their populations, if left alone, are always sustainable. In contrast, humans have severely overpopulated the planet and are set to destroy it.


My opinion:

Compared to chimpanzees, I wonder: are humans really more advanced? We do have a higher intellectual capacity, but we have used this capacity to destroy the world around us.

Reflection (a5)

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-08-19-life_N.htm


New info:

  •  Scientists are now manipulating life to the extent of creation. They are changing the genetic identity of bacterium, creating completely new bacteria, and trying to create life out of chemicals. This may mean new energy sources and life-saving medicines, which will benefit the word immensely.
  • The possibility that machines can be considered alive. Kurzweil, a renowned futurist, believes that machines will continue to be developed to the point that they can reproduce, evolve or gain artificial intelligence.
  • There is a worry that these scientists, by tinkering with nature or “playing God”, will bring about unintended consequences (look to Terminator and Alien for some examples). But some of them think “playing God” will benefit the world as long as it is done responsibly.


What’s Interesting:

  • I’ve heard of cloning and GM food, but creating artificial life? Now that’s a first.
  • What will this “playing God” bring? It has led to disaster in Terminator and Alien, and I’m sure the world doesn’t need to be obliterated by self-aware robots and parasitic aliens. There are bound to be some scientists who are irresponsible when tinkering with nature. So will it benefit the world or bring unintended consequences?

 Definition of life: 

  • I think that life cannot be defined, because there is an infinite number of possibilities to it. At best, we can only define life on Earth, but still in general terms, because every definition can be opposed. (There are always exceptions in Science)
  • Therefore, when looking for life on other planets, I think we can only discover those with similar characteristics to life on Earth as we have no idea what other kinds of life there might be.


My opinion:

Bedau said there are legitimate worries about creating life that could “run amok,” but there are ways of addressing it, and it will be a very long time before that is a problem.

“When these things are created, they’re going to be so weak, it’ll be a huge achievement if you can keep them alive for an hour in the lab,” he said. “But them getting out and taking over, never in our imagination could this happen.”’

After reading these paragraphs, I am seriously worried. This attitude is based on many assumptions. How can the scientists be so sure these new organisms are going to be weak? Although the creation of these new life forms may benefit the world, they also have the potential to cause harm. I hope these scientists “play God” responsibly and take precautionary measures.