In this article, we describe how to utilize differently colored M&M candies to represent species within a simulated biological community, and obtain population and diversity estimates utilizing Lincoln-Petersen and Shannon-Weaver methods, respectively. Through use of this activity, our students gain a better understanding of mathematical applications in biological research, and are exposed to basic census and community analysis techniques utilized by practicing biologists. Additionally, this activity may be utilized in various instructional situations where, otherwise, it might prove impractical to take students on a fieldtrip to allow practice of these procedures.
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