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Ecology Lab Reports

Biological and Environmental Sciences

General Ecology Lab


  1. Soil Structure and Chemistry


Various physical, chemical and biological factors are involved in soil formation.  In today’s lab experiment we will examine the soil structure (determined by relative percentages of sand, silt, and clay), physical characteristics of the soil horizons, and soil chemistry (pH) at two different sites at the Troy University Arboretum.


Lab exercise: 

We will examine soil profiles at two locations at the Arboretum to determine various physical, chemical and biological factors.  We will measure variables including soil pH, soil moisture, leaf litter and humus depth, color of the horizons, and soil characteristics such as texture.


Lab Report:

Your report for this lab needs to contain the usual sections, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, but there is no species list for this report.


In your Introduction, you should introduce the topic of soil properties and then narrow your focus towards our specific study.  Include a general hypothesis and specific predictions contrasting the two sites.  Include at least one outside source to supplement your introduction of the topic (this can be the same source used in Discussion).


In Methods, you should be able to describe how each test was performed and what equipment was used, including those tests not done by your group directly.


For Results, you will need to create a table (Table 1) to display the data collected from the sites. Create a column chart (Figure 1) with side-by-side columns comparing % sand, % silt, and % clay for the two sites.  As a preface, you should include introductory sentences highlighting what is in Table 1 and Figure 1.


In Discussion, you should give a detailed comparison of the two sites, including statements regarding if the results were expected based on the type of ecosystem.  You should also include a short discussion of a published study that looked at similar aspects of soil properties.


All references, including your textbook, should be listed in References using CSE Name-Year style. All references need a parenthetical citation in the text along with the full listing in References.









Soil data sheet                                    Date:                           Time:


Measurements                                               Site A


Site B


Approximate texture for A& E mixed (using flowchart)


% sand


% silt


% clay


Texture (using pyramid with

% sand, silt, clay)

Soil moisture (% sat)

(A horizon)

O Horizon depth (cm), avg. of 6


Approximate A & E Horizon depth (cm)  
Horizon color, name and code (using Munsell Color Chart)








pH    A horizon


         E horizon


B horizon




Guidelines for General Ecology Lab Reports


General features of lab reports:  Labs must be typed; use a standard 12-point font (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) for the text of the report. Labs must be written in complete sentences, with correct spelling and punctuation.  Lab reports are due prior to the beginning of lab class of the specified due date.


You will lose one point per day for labs turned in late; no lab report will be accepted more than three days late.  An unexcused absence on the day of lab will also result in a deduction of one point (even if the report is turned in on time).


Lab reports must be written in your own words.Do not copy from other members of your group, from the internet, or from other sources.Do not copy and paste from the lab handouts into your write-upDo not use direct quotes; the information must be in your own words.


Numbering the pages:  Number each of the pages at the bottom.  Don’t use a cover page.


Terminology and other notes on grammar, calculations etc:

Tenses for different sections of the report – The introduction should use past tense when referring to previous studies and future tense when referring to what will be presented in the report.  The methods section should be in past tense.  The results and discussion sections are generally in past tense, except when referring to information presented further along in the report, areas for future study, etc.


SpacingDouble space the text throughout the report.  Text in tables and figures, as well as references, may be single spaced.


Numbers – A zero must always be put before a decimal point if there is not another number before it, e.g. 0.45 not .45.  Do not use more than two decimal places.


In the text, numbers less than 10 are written out in letters, e.g., three not 3.  However, numbers associated with a unit of measurement are always written as Arabic numerals, e.g., 1 m2, not one m2.


Calculations – When reporting calculated values, show your work!


You must retain the computer files of your work for this course until the semester is over and you have received the final grade for the class.





Format for General Ecology Lab Reports

(unless otherwise specified)



Lab Section:

Title of Lab:

Date of Lab:


Location of the lab: Briefly describe the site and location, i.e., the lab was performed in the wooded area of the Troy University Arboretum.  Include the latitude and longitude (available from Google Maps) reported in decimal degrees, e.g. 31.784°N, 85.975°W.


Physical conditions:  Describe the weather during the lab, e.g., sunny and 30 °C.


Species studied:  Give the common and scientific names of all species observed in the lab.  The scientific names of species must be accompanied by the authority (the last name of the person who named the species or an abbreviation).  The primary source for plant scientific names and authorities is the Alabama Plant Atlas.  Put the information in the following format:


Common Name                       Scientific Name                      Authority

Tuberous Vervain                    Verbena rigida                        Spreng.

Southern Crabgrass                Digitaria ciliaris(Retzius) Koeler                   


The genus is always capitalized, and the species is not. Scientific names should be italicized. The authority is not italicized.


Introduction:  The introduction defines the general purpose of the lab and introduces specific terminology and concepts related to the lab.


Methods:  The Methods section describes the step-by-step procedure that was used in the field. Include all equipment that was used in the performance of the lab exercise. Do not write instructions. Typically, you should cite the lab handout as your source of information.


Results:  This section contains tables and/or figures.  You should have an introductory sentence or two that refers to the tables and/or figures.  Pictures, maps, graphs, and diagrams are all figures.  You need to have “stand alone” titles for figures and tables.  For example:


Figure 1. Species-area curve for herbaceous plant species collected at Troy Arboretum.


Figure 2.  Logarithmic plot of species-area relationship for herbaceous plant species collected at Troy Arboretum.


Tables and figures should be numbered in increasing Arabic numerals, e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, in the order that they are first cited in the text.  The word table or figure is always capitalized in the text when referring to a specific table or figure, e.g., Table 1, Figure 1.


Discussion:  This section should summarize the main findings of the experiment. Do not repeat the results in paragraph form. Explain how the findings of your work compare with the expectations of the study.


Unless otherwise instructed, your discussion should include an outside reference from a published scientific peer-reviewed journal study that was conducted on the topic and used a similar method for collecting data.  The publication date of the study should be within the last 10 years.Print out the first page of the article and attach to the end of the report for verification of your source.


References:  All references cited should be put into the References section.  Wikipedia, blogs, and other similar sources are not acceptable.


References are listed in alphabetic order of the first author’s last name.  Examples of proper reference listings are shown below:



Gotelli, N.J. and L.G. Abele.  1982.  Statistical distributions of West Indian land-bird families.  Journal of Biogeography 9: 421-435.


  • This should be cited as (Gotelli and Abele 1982) in the text.


Keener, B. R., A.R. Diamond, L. J. Davenport, P. G. Davison, S. L. Ginzbarg, C. J. Hansen, C.

  1. Major, D. D. Spaulding, J. K. Triplett, and M. Woods. 2017. Alabama Plant Atlas. University of West Alabama, Livingston, Alabama.


  • This should be cited in the text as (Keener et al. 2017)


Smith, T.M. and R.L. Smith.  2015.  Elements of Ecology. 9th ed.  Pearson Education.


  • This should be cited as (Smith and Smith 2015) in the text.


Troy University, Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences. 2017.  Title of lab.  General Ecology Lab Handout 1 {or relevant number}.


  • This should be cited as (Troy University 2017) in the text.




Last Updated on September 12, 2018

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