Conservation Science with Victoria Gamble

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Students take part in a DNA matching operation, sourcing dung and ivory to assist in identifying where elephants are most at risk.

SKU: 1003 Category:


Conservation Science with Victoria Gamble:

Learning Objectives

  • Students recognize the importance of dung samples as DNA identifiers.
  • Students develop an understanding of how matching tusk and dung DNA can help to identify poaching hotspots.
  • Students develop an understanding of why science is key to solving wildlife conservation.

Guiding ideas for Conservation Science 

•    What is DNA?
•    Where can it be found?
•    How can DNA be used to identify separate species?
•    How can DNA be used to identify unique members of a species?
•    Do we (human beings) have unique DNA?
•    Why is science so important in conservation?
•    What kind of science is important in conservation?

Student activities in Conservation Science 

1. Read the article “Map of elephant DNA reveals trail of ivory smugglers” in the External resources section and introduce to students how science and DNA is being used to help in conservation.
2. Introduce the students to the lesson with the following text: ‘Welcome to the We Are the Rangers science lab. You are a visiting scientist and have been asked to assist in the mapping of elephant populations and movements. To do this, you will need to work with Dr Morgan and find elephant dung as well as ivory caches in poacher camps, return them to the lab for testing and establish a map of poaching hotspots so we can concentrate our resources and forces in the right areas.’
3. Open ‘We Are The Rangers – World Five’ in Minecraft and give students a few moments to explore the lab and find Dr Morgan. When they find her, they should check out what she has to say regarding the collecting of dung and take the Shovel and Compass from her.
4. Ask students to view the large map of Africa on the wall near Dr Morgan and note how many of the lights are green and how many are red. Scientists have already sampled DNA from elephant dung in green regions, while red regions are DNA samples are missing.
5. Ask students to match the map to a real one of Africa and determine (roughly) where the elephant herds are in the real world. They should prepare a table with three columns named:
  • Country (name of country)
  • Dung Sample Provided (yes/no)
  • Ivory sample matched (number value (of DNA matches in step 7))
6. Students should leave the lab, go upstairs and out into the Minecraft world and follow the compass to find elephant dung. Using the shovel, they should collect it and return to the lab and place it in the ‘DNA Sampler’ near Dr Morgan (hold the dung and press ‘Q’ to release it into the sampler). Placing the dung in the sampler will complete the green lighting on the map so we will have taken samples in every region. Now we know where elephant populations are. Students should place a yes in their table on the last country entry when done.

Student Activities continued:

7. Students should return to Dr Morgan for the next set of instructions, before leaving to follow the compass to find the first illegal ivory cache. Taking all the ivory, they should return to the lab and place the tusks in the sampler one at a time. Observing the wall map, they will see a light flash green to tell them where this ivory was poached. Each set of ivory will be from a different place. Ask students to keep a note of their findings in column 3, noting how many sets of ivory were from which countries.

8. Students should return to Dr Morgan for the third set of instructions and find the second illegal ivory cache in the same way as before. Returning to the lab to match the new ivory samples and adding the data to their table.

9. Students can now determine where the largest impact of illegal ivory poaching is being made and so help government and NGO’s to focus resources and forces in the right areas.

Performance Expectations

In this lesson, we would expect students to:

•    Demonstrate an appetite for exploration

•    Have attention to detail when exploring narrative, conversation and written information

•    Interact with Non-Player Characters (Scientists) and follow instructions given.

•    Be prepared to explore the map environment using a compass as a guide

•    Show empathy for elephant plight


  • Citizenship
  • Critical thinking
  • Project Based Learning


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