Author ORCID Identifier

Heather E Bergan-Roller:

Jennifer A.H. Koop:

Document Type


Publication Title

Snail Races: An Inquiry-Based Approach to Learn Invasive Species Ecology


Inquiry-based lessons allow learning that is hands-on and student-driven, fostering engagement and retention of knowledge in any discipline. Here, we use this learning framework to engage students in exploring the effects of biotic and abiotic factors on animal dispersal as a means of connecting students to multiple ecological concepts. Instructors are provided with a guided lecture on key ecological concepts including the impacts of invasive species, dispersal mechanisms, and species interactions with the environment. Furthermore, the interactive lecture introduces students to the snail study system and explains the experimental process, which involves low-cost, readily available materials (e.g., kiddie pools). Students design experiments that explore how variables including density, substrate, and temperature can affect animal dispersal. They conduct the experiments, engage in a process of peer-review, analyze results, and share their study. We performed this lesson in an undergraduate Ecology course and report here on student responses to the experience. The lesson is designed to be performed with the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata), an invasive freshwater species throughout much of the Great Lakes region, but can be easily modified to accommodate other species. The lesson is also highly amenable to modifications for variable class sizes, student grade levels, and lesson duration.


Publication Date


Original Citation

Grindle E, Bergan-Roller HE, Johnson A, Lunaburg G, Koop JAH. 2023. Snail Races: An Inquiry-Based Approach to Learn Invasive Species Ecology. CourseSource 10.


Department of Biological Sciences


Funding was provided by Northern Illinois University through a Great Journeys Fellowship to J.A.H. Koop and through a Smerge Scholarship to A. Johnson and G. Lunaburg.



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