Hudson River Ecology

How does the Hudson River ecosystem respond to different types of changes over time? Are these changes permanent, and how will the ecosystem respond? Our curriculum addresses these questions through modules which combine unique and engaging Hudson River data collected by the Cary Institute and other scientists, investigations, readings, and visualizations.

Natural Selection & Evolution


This unit integrates ecology and evolution by focusing on the story of Foundry Cove, where thousands of pounds of cadmium waste were dumped from the 1950s through 1970s.  Surprisingly, a species of mud worm became resistant to the chemicals within a very short period of time, illustrating the principles of evolution through a local story.  By using non-fiction articles and readings along with hands on activities and graphic organizers, students will explore the events at Foundry Cove, how the resistance developed over time, and the larger consequences for the Hudson River ecosystem.  The culminating lesson asks students to explore the evolution of resistance to PCBs in Hudson River tomcod using popular media articles. 

  • Day 1: Cadmium in the Cove: What happened to it?

    Students will know the origins of cadmium in the Hudson River, and will be able to integrate information from maps and text to describe how and why distribution of cadmium changed from 1975 to 1983.

  • Day 2: The Marathon Battery Factory

    Students will know how Foundry Cove became the most cadmium-polluted place in the world and will be able to explain the impact on the ecosystem.

  • Day 3: Biomagnification: Cadmium in the Food Web

    Students will know the concept of biomagnification and be able to explain how biomagnification relates to cadmium levels in blue crabs in the Hudson River.

  • Day 4: Survivors at Foundry Cove!

    Students will know that mud worms at Foundry Cove evolved cadmium resistance and be able to explain how the scientists verified that cadmium-resistance is an inherited trait.

  • Day 5: Natural Selection at Foundry Cove

    Students will know that environmental changes act as a selection filter and be able to explain these processes using the example of cadmium resistance in Foundry Cove mud worms.

  • Day 6: Pollution drives evolution in the Hudson River

    Students will know how Hudson River tomcod evolved resistance to PCBs and be able to critically compare the way different news outlets choose to tell a scientific story.

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