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Matter and Energy in Ecosystems


The Sun provides the Earth with an incredible amount of energy. Primary producers convert the light energy into chemical energy, and in this usable form it transfers through entire ecosystems. However, a significant amount of energy is lost at each transfer. In this assignment students will measure the efficiency of energy transfers between rodents and beetles, and investigate how organisms obtain and use matter and energy to live and grow.

*This assignment was created by Dr. Kelsey Robson at Idaho State University. Please contact Dr. Robson at for the answers to the assignment questions and the completed data sets.

ESA Learning Goal:

How do organisms obtain and use matter and energy to live and grow?


  1. Complete a data table for the biomass conversion experiment.

  2. Answer questions about the results of the experiment and related ecological principles.      


  1. Carry out a biomass conversion experiment with burying beetles and rodent carcasses.

  2. Collect and analyze data in Excel.


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