Beaver Ecology

Amazing engineers, fascinating adaptations, and an important keystone species, the North American beaver, Castor canadensis, is the subject of this course. We will focus on an investigation of a site that has recently been occupied by a pair of adult beavers, George and Gracie. The study site is located southwest of Denver, CO, near Chatfield Reservoir along the South Platte River. Get ready to explore the busyness of beavers!

Appropriate grade range: 6-12

Learning Goals

  • Compare the complex family dynamics of beavers.
  • Explain why beavers are considered nature's engineers.
  • Summarize evolutionary evidence to demonstrate how beaver adaptations support their role and behavior in the ecosystem.
  • Recognize that beavers play a crucial role in the wetland ecosystem.


  1. The Study Site
  2. Ecosystem Engineers
  3. Beaver Evolution
  4. Beavers and Ecosystem Dynamics

Course Components

  • Online Assessment
  • Student Guide
  • Narrated Video
  • Interactives
  • Objectives for each Chapter
  • Certificate of Completion

Alignment to NGSS

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Topic-Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior

LS4.C: Adaptation

Topic-Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes

Topic-Natural Selection and Evolution

LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity

LS4.B: Natural Selection

LS4.C: Adaptation

Topic-Human Sustainability

ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

Topic-Earth’s Systems

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes

ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

Topic-Forces and Interactions

PS2.A: Forces and Motion

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

Science and Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems Using mathematics and computational thinking Analyzing and interpreting data Constructing explanations and designing solutions Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Crosscutting Concepts

Systems and system models Energy and matter Structure and function