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Goose Nesting Camera Activity with the USGS Alaska Science Center: Middle School Lesson

Participate in this fun, interactive lesson that allows students to think like a USGS Wildlife Biologist! This lesson explores how disturbances in the natural environment could impact the nesting habits of geese in the wild. In this activity, students analyze camera shots of different nests and evaluate how the length of incubation breaks taken by geese can vary due to local disturbances.


Canada Goose on the Colville River Delta
Canada Goose on the Colville River Delta

­­­Past research has shown that a typical length of time for geese to incubate their eggs on a nest is about 30 days. During this 30-day period, the geese will regularly take breaks to eat and drink throughout the day. However, human activity and other disturbances in the area may force a goose to leave her nest for additional and extended periods of time. Whenever a goose leaves her nest, the eggs are unprotected from predators in the area. Increased predation of eggs could have an impact on local goose populations.

To gain a better understanding of the length of frequency of natural incubation breaks and if human and predators cause additional and longer breaks from the nest, the USGS Alaska Science Center used small cameras at nest sites in northern Alaska. Wildlife Biologists set up cameras at different nesting locations and recorded the geese during their incubation period. Camera shots were captured before, during, and after a goose left their nest. Read more about the study here.

Using photos from this research, we’ve developed a fun, interactive activity for students to practice analyzing research data like a Wildlife Biologist. This lesson is meant to help students learn about data collection, testing hypotheses, and evaluating results by looking through the camera image data collected by our wildlife biologist team. In this activity, students can split into groups and are assigned a different nest location. Students analyze their group photos, complete a data sheet, and then evaluate local disturbances and the length of time the geese were away from their nest.

Text by: Bianca Ruiz for USGS through the Virtual Student Federal Service program.



Download the following 3-part lesson plan:

  1. Classroom lesson in [PowerPoint - 13.9MB] or [PDF - 3.08MB]
  2. Lesson data sheet in [MS Word - 710KB] or [PDF - 278KB]
  3. Photos, depending on file size you prefer: either the Group photos or by Camera.

Photos - all in PDF format

[Group 1 - 67.7MB] For the purposes of downloading smaller files,

the following are offered:
[Group 2 -53.6MB] [Camera 11 - 5.47MB]
[Group 3 - 68.2MB] [Camera 19 - 8.95MB]
[Group 4 - 57.6MB] [Camera 26 - 11.8MB]
[Group 5 - 63.8MB]  
[Group 6 - 82.8MB]  
White-fronted goose nest near industrial activity. Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska, USA.
White-fronted goose nest near industrial activity. Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska, USA.