The Laramie High School Ecology class is conducting an experiment on how animals survive the winter. 

In the experiment, students will design devices that keep a water bottle from freezing. The devices will be left outside for one night. The designs are supposed to mimic strategies that local animals use to stay warm. 

“Students are doing this experiment to model some of the strategies animals use to tolerate the winter,” Brian Spicer said, the ecology teacher at LHS. 

Right now, the class is learning about animals that live in Wyoming and how they survive outside year-round.  

“We started a winter ecology unit based on how organisms survive the cold temperatures,” Spicer said. 

Some animals migrate to warmer places during the winter, but some have insulation like fur or fat that helps them stay warm when the temperature drops. 

To prepare for the experiment, ecology students have been studying different mechanisms animals have developed for keeping warm. They will apply similar mechanisms along with prior knowledge to make their devices successful.  

“They might see antelope out there and think they’re just built for it,” Spicer said. “To actually try and mimic what they’re doing might give them a better understanding.” 

Some students are using lard as an insulator to simulate a layer of blubber. Others are using sugar-water or articles of wool clothing.  

An insulator keeps heat near the water bottle and prevents the cold air from freezing it. Students are not allowed to use fire or electricity in their devices. 

A successful project will keep the water bottle insulated and still liquid by the next morning. 

“It was an interesting project,” Kellen Vasquez said, an ecology student. “It was fun trying to make something that didn’t freeze.” 

The ecology class does many different experiments throughout the class, but the experiments vary with each different semester. 

“Normally, during fall semester we do our field trips before winter sets in,”  Spicer said. “In the spring, we do all of them in the late spring. I didn’t want to wait this semester, so I put together this project.” 

Students do other hands-on projects in the class like creating their own ecosystem with unique plants and animals or take field trips to study outdoor areas near the high school. 

Last semester, the Ecology class took a field trip to Headquarters Trailhead where they observed the different species in the area and collected river organisms.  

“I had a very pleasant time,” Mitchell Gray said, a student who took Ecology last semester. “It was a fun trip.” 

Ecology is the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and their surroundings.  

The LHS Ecology class studies the fundamentals of what happens in an ecosystem and how different animals fit in.  

Ecology is a semester class that students can take for science credits. 

“I hope they gain a better appreciation for what these organisms have to do to deal with the Wyoming winter,” Spicer said.