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Design the Ultimate Invader - Teacher Lesson Plan


Grade: 9-12 (adaptable for all grade levels) Length: Part A- 40 minutes (including the presentations) Part B- 20 minutes Subjects: invasive species, biology, ecology, environmental sciences, social sciences Topics: trophic levels, food webs, natural selection, evolution, and group problem solving*


Students will:


During this fun lesson, students will apply their knowledge of biology, ecology, and society to design the ultimate invasive species. Use this lesson as standalone exercise. Or use it as an effective pre- and postevaluation of a unit about species ecology.

In Part A, students will first design an invasive species using only their imaginations. After learning about invasive species biology and ecology, students will evaluate and redesign their ultimate invader in Part B to make it even more invincible.


Invasive species are organisms that are introduced from somewhere else and take over the environment. They cause problems for other plants, animals, and people. Invasive species often have physical traits that enable them to reproduce and spread rapidly and outcompete native species for resources. And invasive species often have physical traits that make them difficult to control.



It is useful to gain some familiarity with invasive species topics before teaching this lesson. For more information, see the AIS Resource Guide or the Web site of the Union of Concerned Scientists ( invasive_species/).


Part A. Design the ultimate invader

Divide students into teams (three to five students per team) and ask them to design, draw, and describe the characteristics of the ultimate invasive species. The species may be terrestrial, aerial, aquatic, cosmic, or any combination. Encourage students to be creative, unleash their imaginations, and use whatever knowledge they have about invasive species. If students need help getting started, here are a few questions they might consider:

*To address these topics, have students answer the What do you know? questions on the student page.

Part B. Redesign the ultimate invader

After students have completed the unit about invasive species, have them gather into the same teams as before. Allow teams 15 minutes to redesign the ultimate invasive species. Students should:


Use one or more of the following suggestions to evaluate students.


(URLs last accessed in December 2010. Some links may no longer work.)

Statesman-Journal series on “Invasive Species of Oregon.” Available at The Statesman-Journal series on Invasive Species of Oregon features nutria and other species. This Web site has a comprehensive database of invasive species in Oregon, video, photos, and forums to discuss invasive species.

Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary Silent Invasion Available from: Silent Invasion is an OPB documentary about invasive species in Oregon. The Web site includes many short video segments about specific invasive species or case studies.

The following educational tools are useful for teaching K–12 students about aquatic invasive species:

National Invasive Species Information Center Available from:

Nab the Aquatic InvaderAvailable from:


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Instructions: Use your knowledge of biology, ecology, and evolution to answer the following questions about your ultimate invader. You may use your text book as a reference.

  1. If an invader is not outwardly aggressive, what novel characteristics allow it to outcompete other species? For example, some “novel weapons” might include allelopathy, multiple hosts or vectors, size (small has advantages), adaptations for multiple modes of transport, cute, attractive, etc.
  2. What biotic or abiotic factors may limit the growth of your population of invaders?
  3. What might happen when two different invasive species hybridize? What might happen when an invasive species and a non-invasive species hybridize? Can the two species hybridize?
  4. What role does your invader play in the food web?
  5. Is your invader an autotroph or a heterotroph?
  6. Some invaders could be too successful for their own good. The invader may reproduce at such a rapid rate that it eats itself out of house and home. Is this a good characteristic for an ultimate invader?
  7. Why is eradication of a species almost impossible with biological control?
  8. Other species your invader interacts with may have to adapt to the presence of your invader to survive. Choose a characteristic of your invasive species that will affect native species and describe the process by which a native species could evolve to live with your invader. (For example, if an invader outcompetes a native species that is a specialist by eating the entire sole food source for the native species, the native species may evolve to become a generalist rather than a specialist.)
  9. Pretend that a subset of your invader evolves into a new species that is even more invasive than before. Describe the process by which this evolution occurs. What characteristic evolved with the new species? (Invent the characteristic!)

Design the Ultimate Invader!


Instructions: Fill out the following table according to your Ultimate Invader!

[table omitted]

Aquatic Invasions! A Menace to the West • LESSONS Oregon Sea Grant • DRAFT 2008

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