The “Count the Caribou” assignment/experiment is done to learn the Science Grade Seven curriculum expecations 3.7 and 3.8:
explain why an ecosystem is limited in the number of living things (e.g. plants and animals, including humans) that it can support
describe ways in which human activities and technologies alter balances and interactions in the environment (e.g. clear-cutting a forest, overusing motorized vehicles, managing wolf-killings in Yukon)
In this experiment, the students performed a “mock-sample” of caribou populations in a gridded area. After examining the caribou populations and making predictions for their total numbers, the students answered the key question, “Suppose that an oil pipeline is to be built right through the middle of this area. The caribou will not be able to jump over it or go under it. Predict what effect this could have on the caribou population.”
In answering this question, students expressed concerns a pipeline might limit food supply, cause imbalance in male/female populations and endanger the environment with spills. They also noted that human traffic might endanger caribou populations.