This set of instructional materials was developed through a partnership between TERC in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.

TERC is a not-for-profit education research and development organization. For the last 48 years, TERC has focused on innovative and technology-rich advancements in math and science learning and teaching. TERC works at the frontiers of theory and practice to contribute to a deeper understanding of learning and teaching; enhance instruction through teacher professional development; develop applications of new technologies to education; create curricula and other products; and support reform in both school and informal settings.

Founded in 1983, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is one of the world’s leading independent environmental research organizations whose mission is the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge about ecological systems. For nearly forty years, the Institute’s scientists have investigated the complex interactions that govern the natural world, using objective findings to promote more effective policy decisions and increased environmental literacy.

A team of principal investigators, Gillian Puttick, Brian Drayton, Alan Berkowitz, and Steward Pickett, led the development team. Curriculum developers were Marlene Cole, Meaghan Donovan, and Jeff Lockwood, while administrative and research assistance was provided by Sarah Hill, Tara Robillard, and Rachel Hayes.

The following teachers piloted or field-tested the curriculum:

  • Marcia Bisnett; Miami Norland Senior High School; Miami, FL
  • Daniel Bryant; Incarnate Word Academy; Houston, TX
  • Josie Cain; Harrison High School; Harrison, NY
  • Vince Case; School on Wheels Alternative High School; Albuquerque, NM
  • Beth Cochran; Manchester Regional High School; Haledon, NJ
  • Michele Cook; Cadillac High School; Cadillac, MI
  • Joanne Coons; Shenendehowa Central Schools; Clifton Park, NY
  • Sarah Cramer; Lincoln High School; Lincoln, MO
  • Karl Dreyer; Roosevelt Alternative High School; Rockford, IL
  • Barbara Engle; Blue Ridge High School; Lakeside, AZ
  • Grant Euler; Arvada High School; Arvada, CO
  • Sandra Fischer; Chatham High School; Chatham, NY
  • Ken Gracz; Andrews High School; High Point, NC
  • Scott Havice; Fremont Ross High School; Fremont, OH
  • Susan Hieter; International School of Aruba; Oranjestad, Aruba
  • Chris Hinz; East Troy High School; East Troy, WI
  • Nick LaFave; Clover High School; Clover, SC
  • Huck Laughner; Green Farms Academy; Westport, CT
  • Christine Lauer; Woodstock High School; Woodstock, GA
  • Marcy McKinley; Duanesburg High School; Delanson, NY
  • Carol Mutchler; Wilmington High School; Wilmington, MA
  • Benjamin Nims; Maplewood Richmond Heights High School; Maplewood, MO
  • Wendy Perkins; John Handley High School; Winchester, VA
  • Susan Pike; St. Thomas Aquinas High School; Dover, NH
  • Kathleen Quinn; Huntingdon Area High School; Huntingdon, PA
  • Mark Richards; St. Paul’s School; Covington, LA
  • Meg Schneider; Attleboro High School; Attleboro, MA
  • Korrin Schriver; Messmer High School; Milwaukee, WI
  • Emily Sherman; Scarborough High School; Scarborough, ME
  • Tim Surine; Highland High School; Riverside, IA
  • Matthew Talbot; Somerset High School; Somerset, MA
  • Bill Thrasher; Whitman-Hanson Regional High School; Whitman, MA
  • Maria Toyos; Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School; Miami, FL
  • Teresa Tucker; Northwest High School; Jackson, MI
  • Jim White; Boston Collegiate Charter School; Boston, MA
  • Abby Wood; Rocky Hill School; East Greenwich, CT
  • Alex Velardi; North Haven High School; North Haven, CT
  • Jim Zlomke; Cheyenne East High School; Cheyenne, WY

TERC and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies have designed the Biocomplexity curriculum to facilitate study of human interactions as components of natural systems. The four units can provide a year-long capstone course in ecology/environmental science, or the units can be used as stand-alone inquiries. In this curriculum, students will:

  • Complete inquiry-oriented field and lab investigations designed around cases in urban, agricultural, tropical, and polar systems.
  • Explore environmental land use challenges, choosing solutions and marshaling arguments and evidence to defend their choices.
  • Model qualitative and quantitative relationships among components in systems and use their models to make predictions.
  • Use advanced mathematical skills and data sets to test new questions and conduct analyses.

The nature of the material lends itself to a range of student competencies. Extensive teacher materials increase content knowledge and support effective instructional strategies. Community materials serve to develop strong ties between schools, parents, and communities. As a capstone course, the materials align with the Next Generation Science Standards and will meet the needs of districts adopting Physics First programs.

Questions? Please contact us.

About TERC

TERC is a nonprofit made up of teams of math and science education and research experts dedicated to innovation and creative problem solving. At the frontier of theory and practice, TERC’s work encompasses research, content and curriculum development, technology innovation, professional development, and program evaluation. TERC has a passion for social justice and strives to create level playing fields for all learners, reaching more than three million students every year. To learn more, please visit