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EcoKids Glossary

Welcome to the EcoKids Glossary. In here you’ll find definitions for many ecological and environmental terms. If you can’t find a word you’d like explained, e-mail us and we’ll add it to our growing list.



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Abdomen: the last of the three parts of an insect’s body. There you can find their heart, digestive system, and reproductive organs.

Abiotic: Nonorganic aspects of the environment. Examples include rocks, sunlight, temperature and wind.

Acid: A water-soluble chemical compound that tastes sour or bitter, irritates skin and eyes, and reddens litmus paper.

Acidic: You would use the word acidic when you are talking about an acid. For example: "The vinegar was very acidic." The word acidic is also used to describe something that has acid in it.

Acid Rain: A harmful type of precipitation that occurs when airborne chemicals like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide dissolve in rainwater.

Activist: A person who believes in a cause or issue and takes action to promote it.

Adaptation: A special feature or behaviour developed by organisms to help them survive in a particular environment.

Agriculture: The process of preparing the land to grow food, producing crops, and raising animals.

Alpine: Relating to high mountains.

Amphibian: An animal that typically lives partially in an aquatic habitat (breathing by gills) as young and primarily in a terrestrial habitat (breathing by lungs and through moist skin) as an adult, e.g. frogs.

Aquifer: Natural underground reservoir of water.

Arctic: The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean surrounded by treeless permafrost and is situated around the Earth’s North Pole.

Arctic Marine Environment: This is a biome made up of the Arctic Ocean including areas with permanent ice cover.

Arctic Tundra: Found in northern Canada, this habitat is an area characterized by cold temperatures, few, if any, short stunted trees and soil that is frozen for most of the year.

Atmosphere: A thin layer of gases above and around the Earth. It is between outer space and the Earth.

Bacteria: Very tiny (microscopic) living things that are found everywhere. Some bacteria do useful things, some bacteria can cause disease.

Baleen Whale: One of the two suborders of whales. They have baleen plates that look like long filaments of coarse hair instead of teeth. Baleen is made out of keratin, just like fingernails and hair.

Barbel: A slender, whiskerlike organ extending from the head or chin of certain fishes.

Bark: The tough, corky, outer skin that covers tree trunks, branches and twigs.

Bioaccumulation: Occurs when a substance builds up inside the tissue of an organism. The substance may be passed on to the organism that eats it, where it would build up even more.

Biodegradable: The property of a substance that permits it to be broken down by bacteria and other microorganisms into simple, stable products that will not harm the environment.

Biodiversity: The variety of life on Earth. "Bio" means life and "diversity" means difference.

Biofuels: Transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel that are made from animal waste and plants.

Biological control: the use of natural enemies (predators, parasites, etc…) to control a pest population.

Biologist: A person who studies living organisms and their relationships to one another.

Biology: The study of living things. When scientists study frogs it is a kind of biology.

Biomass: Plant materials and animal waste.

Biome: A large natural area where certain types of plants grow. It also includes the animals, soil, water, rocks and climate.

Bioregion: A bioregion is a land area that shares similar plant and animal species, water, climate, rocks, soils, landforms [topography] and human culture.

Bioregionalism: Means being aware of the ecology, economy and culture of the place where you live.

Biosphere: The part of the Earth’s crust, water and atmosphere where living organisms can survive.

Biotic: Organic aspects of the environment that include living and dead plants, animals and microorganisms.

Blackwater: Wastewater from toilets or other sources that require intensive filtering and disinfecting before being suitable to use for other purposes or consumption. See also Greywater.

Blubber: A thick layer of fat found in Arctic mammals.

Boreal Forest: It is a kind of forest found across Canada’s north. It has coniferous trees, lichen, mosses and bushes. See Coniferous trees.

Burrows: Holes that some animals dig in the ground. Many animals live in or hibernate in burrows. Burrows often have several rooms and multiple exits for quick getaways.

Calving Grounds: An place or area where caribou give birth to their babies.

Camouflage: The way in which an animal hides itself from an enemy, changing its body shape or colour to blend into its surroundings.

Canadian Shield: A geographic area found in eastern and central Canada. It covers about eight million square kilometres and has some of the Earth’s oldest rock. It is also called the Precambrian Shield, or the Laurentian Shield.

Canopy: The layer formed by the leaves and branches of a forest’s tallest trees.

Caption: Words used to describe a picture or drawing, like in a comic strip.

Carbon: A chemical element that is found in all plants and animals. Carbon is found in fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas. When fossil fuels are burned the carbon is released into the air and can join with oxygen to make carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Carbon dioxide: A colourless, odorless, tasteless gas that is produced when animals exhale and when fuels burn, and is used by plants to make food. Carbon dioxide is a "Greenhouse Gas." See Fossil fuels and Greenhouse Gas(es).

Carbon Sequestration: The capture or long-term storage of carbon in forests/soils/oceans, preventing it from collecting in the atmosphere as CO2

Carnivore: An animal that eats other animals and is nourished by the plants and smaller creatures these animals have eaten.

Carrion: Dead and decaying animal matter.

Cartilaginous Fish: These fish have a skeleton that is made up of cartilage ,a flexible tissue which we have in our nose and ears. Some examples are sharks and rays.

Certified: Means that the food has been grown according to strict standards
(e.g. no pesticides), verified by an independent organization."

Cetacean: Group of mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises. There are about 80 different species (33 can be found in Canada). They are found in all of the Earth’s oceans and in some rivers and estuaries.

CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons): A family of chemicals used in refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, insulation, or as solvents and aerosol propellants, which drift into the upper atmosphere and destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer

Chlorophyll: A green substance that enables the leaves of plants to use solar energy, carbon dioxide, water and organic nutrients from the soil to make the sugars and starches they use as food.

Circumpolar: To circle a Pole or to be around or near the North or South Pole.

Clear–cutting: When all of the trees in large sections of a forest are cut down.

Climate: The pattern of weather in a region year round.

Climate Change: When climate is different from its past. The Earth’s climate could be changing really fast because of human activities. See Climate.

Coal: A dark brown or black substance formed from ancient plants that have been squeezed under layers of rock over millions of years. Coal is used as a fuel.

Cold-blooded: Animals whose body temperature is based on the temperature of the environment around them . Examples include fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects. These animals are also called ectotherms.

Commensalism: A relationship in which one species derives food or shelter from another species without seriously harming that organism or providing any benefits in return.

Commodity: Something of value that can be bought or sold, usually a product or raw material (lumber, wheat, coffee, metals, etc.).

Compost: Decomposing plant material that provides fertilization to soil.

Condensation: The change of matter from a gas into a solid or liquid form.

Coniferous trees: The leaves are either long, pointed needles or small flat scales. Seeds of coniferous trees grow in cones that fall out when a cone opens its scales. Coniferous trees are also called evergreen trees because they remain green all year round.

Conservation: Protecting, preserving or restoring natural environments along with the plants and animals that live there.

Consumption: Using of something that results in its destruction, deterioration or transformation.

Contaminants: A substance that is found where it should not be. Depending on the type and amount, a contaminant can be harmful for the environment, animals and human health.

Contamination: The process of making something harmful or un-useable by the addition of contaminants.

Convention: An agreement or contract.

Crustacean: A type of invertebrate usually found in water but also on land. They have a shell-like exoskeleton. Some examples of crustaceans are shrimp, crabs and lobsters.

Decay: To break down or rot. Plant and animal remains decay naturally.

Decompose: To rot or decay; to break down into simpler parts or elements.

Decomposers: Organisms (bacteria, fungi, worms) that feed on dead decaying plant and animal matter and break it down (mechanically or chemically) into a form that can be used as nutrients by plants.

Deciduous Tree: Generally, a tree that loses all of its leaves for part of the year. Sometimes called a broad-leaf tree or a hardwood tree. Example Maple, Beech, Birch and Oak.

Deforestation: The complete destruction and total clearing of all forests within a region.

Depreciation: This occurs when the value of an object decreases as it is used over time. For example, the wear and tear (age, mileage and condition) on a car over several years lessens (or depreciates) its value.

Dewlap: The loose skin hanging under the neck of many animals.

Diurnal: Active during the day.

Dormant: Lying asleep or as if asleep; inactive.

Dorsal fin: The fin found on the back of fish and many marine mammals, including whales and dolphins.

Downcycling: When waste materials are recycled to make another product of lesser quality. This often happens in paper or plastic recycling.

Drought: A long period of dry weather.

Echolocation: A system of navigation and hunting used by animals such as dolphins and bats. By making high-pitched sound waves and listening to the way the sound bounces off objects the animals are able to sense the direction, location, shape and texture of things . Humans use an electronic form of this called sonar.

Ecoclimate: The climate of a certain area or habitat.

Ecosystem: A community of living things and the environment in which they live.

Ecozone: An area of land and/or sea that is determined by climate, geography and ecological diversity.

Endangered: Plants and animals that are under threat of becoming extinct.

Endothermic: Animals, such as mammals and birds that can maintain a constant body temperature regardless of the surrounding temperature. These animals are sometimes called warm-blooded. Endothermic also refers to a chemical process that involves the absorption of heat.

Equator: The point halfway between the North and South Poles. The equator divides the Earth into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Equinox: When the sun is crossing along the equator and makes the day and night the same length all over the world. This happens twice a year: on March 21 (spring equinox) and September 22 (autumnal equinox).

Erosion: When parts of the Earth’s surface are worn away by wind, water or a glacier. Usually the soil that is worn away becomes displaced.

Estuary: The area where a river and the sea meet. The water is brackish, a mixture of salt and fresh water.

Ethanol: A type biofuel that can be blended with gasoline. It can be made from many crops, including potatoes, corn and sugar cane.

Evaporation: When a liquid is turned into a gas, usually after being heated. For example water becomes steam.

Evergreen: A plant that does not lose all of its leaves at one time. Most North American evergreens are coniferous.

E-Waste: Electronics or parts of electronics that have been discarded.

Exemption: Special permission to be free from requirements that others must meet.

Exoskeleton: The hard exterior of some insects and crustaceans. It provides protection and support.

Export: To send goods or services to another country for sale or trade.

Extinct: A plant or animal that no longer exists anywhere on Earth.

Extinction: The condition of having been removed from existence. An animal or plant facing extinction is one in danger of vanishing from our world.

Extirpated: Something that is no longer found in a wild area where it used to live (and where it belongs), but is found somewhere else.

Fair trade: A type of trade that helps to reduce poverty in developing countries, helps the environment, and works to end child labour. Fair trade makes sure that the people making the products get a good price for their goods and that the people buying them get good quality products.

Fertilizer: A substance that is put on the ground to help crops and other plants grow better. Fertilizers give plants nutrients. Fertilizers can be man-made chemicals or natural materials such as manure.

Filter feeder: An aquatic animal that eats small organisms by sifting them out of the water. Clams, oysters and coral are all filter feeders and help to maintain water quality. Baleen whales also filter feed by skimming small fish and krill from the water.

Fjord: A long, narrow part of the sea found between steep cliffs.

Flock: The name used for some groups of animals of all the same kind. For example, birds, goats, sheep, geese, etc.

Food Chain: A food chain shows how each living thing gets its food. A food chain always starts with plant life and ends with an animal. (e.g. grasshopper eats plants like corn, shrews eat grasshoppers, hawks eat shrews.)

Food Miles: The distance food travels from where it is grown or raised to where it is ultimately bought by consumers.

Food Web: A complex, interconnected pattern of food chains.

Forage: The act of looking or searching for food.

Forest: A complex community of plants and animals in which trees are the most prominent members.

Forest fragmentation: When a forest is divided into smaller parts by roads, agriculture and human development. Forest fragmentation can harm biodiversity by altering the habitat of plants and animals.

Fossil fuels: Fuels that are natural substances found deep within the Earth that were formed from the remains of plants and animals millions of years ago. Some examples of fossil fuels are coal, petroleum, natural gas and propane.

Genes: A sequence of DNA that is responsible for the variation in individuals.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): GMOs are plants or animals whose original genes have been altered. Organisms that have been modified are usually farmed species and may have greater nutritional value, be hardier or even look and act different from the original organisms.

Geothermal Energy: The natural heat energy of the Earth. Also called Earth energy.

Glacier: A large piece of ice formed on land by a build-up of snow. Glaciers are responsible for many natural lakes and land formations. They are slow moving and do not completely melt away during the summer months.

Global Warming: An overall increase in the Earth’s temperature, which may be caused by reduced numbers of trees and increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. See Greenhouse Effect.

Grassland: Large areas of land that are flat, grow different kinds of grasses and other plants and get less than 100 cm of precipitation each year. They also do not have many trees. Some grasslands are called Prairies.

Greenbelt: A large area where recreational parks, farmland and natural land surrounding communities are protected against building.

Greenhouse Effect: The warming of the Earth’s surface. Gases (See Greenhouse Gases), trap heat between surface of the Earth and the atmosphere. See Atmosphere.

Greenhouse Gas(es): Gases that suck up the energy coming from the Earth and send most of it back to the Earth. They are apart of "the Greenhouse Effect." Examples: Carbon dioxide, Nitrous oxide, Methane, water vapour, CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons).

Green roof (also known as a living roof): A roof that is completely or partially covered with soil and plants. A green roof will reduce building temperature as well as filter air pollution and provide habitat for wildlife.

Green-washing: Happens when a company tries to make itself or a product appear to be environmentally friendly when it is not.

Greywater: Wastewater from washing machines, sinks and bathtubs/showers. This water can be used to water gardens or flush toilets but must be filtered and treated before consuming. See also Blackwater.

Habitat: The place where any plant or animal naturally lives and grows; a place that provides food, water, space to live and shelter for an interdependent community of living things.

Habitat degradation: When the quality of a habitat decreases and it cannot support the same species as it did before.

Hatching: Breaking out of an egg.

Hazardous waste: Any solid, liquid, or gaseous waste materials that, if improperly managed or disposed of, may pose substantial hazards to human health and the environment.

Heliotropic: A stationary organism (usually a plant) that grows or moves towards or away from sunlight. Sunflowers are an example because they always turn their flowers to face the sun.

Hemisphere: Half of a sphere. The Earth is divided at the equator into the Northern and Southern hemispheres and divided at the meridian into the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Herbivores: Animals that rely on plants and plant parts for their nourishment.

Herd: A group of animals of the same kind, together in a group feeding or traveling together. For example, cattle, buffalo, caribou.

Hibernation: The act of passing the winter, or part of it, in a state of deep sleep. Some animals do this to avoid the cold temperatures and lack of food during winter months.

Horizon: Where the Earth appears to meet the sky.

Humus: A dark brown or black material in soil made of decomposed animals or plants that has a lot of nutrients.

Hybrid: When two different things are combined into one. For example, hybrid cars are powered by electricity and gasoline.

Hydro electricity: Energy from moving water that is captured and converted to electrical energy. Hydroelectric power is usually created when waterfalls or ocean currents are directed through turbines that drive an electric generator.

Hydrologic cycle (water cycle): The continuous circulation of water from the Earth into to the air, and back down to Earth again. This is done through evaporation, transpiration, condensation and precipitation.

Hydroponics: The science of growing plants, especially vegetables, in water containing essential mineral nutrients rather than in soil.

Idling: When a vehicle is stopped but the engine is still running. This results in the production of unnecessary greenhouse gases.

Igloo: A temporary shelter made from ice and snow that the Inuit people would build while hunting out on the sea ice.

Import: To bring goods or services into a country from another country for sale or trade.

Indigenous: A naturally occurring species.

Inorganic: Not living.

Insecticide: A chemical used to kill insects.

Invasive species: A species that has been brought to a new area where it previously did not exist. Invasive species could become harmful to the environment because they tend to out-compete native species for resources, reproduce quickly and lack natural predators.

Invertebrates: Animals that do not have backbones.

Insulin: It controls how much sugar is in an animal’s blood.

Irrigation: To supply water to land in order to help crops or other plants grow.

Kelp: A tall, greenish-brown algae or seaweed. It grows in large forests and provides important habitat and food for many species. Kelp is very nutritious and eaten by people all over the world.

Kilowatt: A unit of measure for electricity that equals one thousand watts

Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The amount of energy present in one kilowatt of electricity supplied for one hour of time. Electricity is sold as kilowatt-hours. People pay for electricity by the number of kilowatt-hours used.

Krill: Very small crustaceans similar to shrimp that are the main food source of many animals including baleen whales.

Landfill: An enormous pit where trash is buried under shallow layers of dirt.

Larvae: The newly hatched form of many insects and animals before metamorphosis. Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and tadpoles are the larvae of frogs and toads.

Leads: Water channels or cracks through polar sea ice that stay open for several months. Leads are important for animals that require oxygen to breathe such as seals, whales and penguins.

Lichen: Its not a plant. It is one living thing made up of two organisms - algae and fungi. It looks like a dry plant. It grows in places where plants can’t like bare rock and tree bark.

Livestock: Domestic animals, such as cattle or horses, raised for home use or for commercial purposes, such as a farm.

Longhouse: A house built by the Iroquois that is longer than it is wide. A typical longhouse is made of elm bark and cedar posts and consists of a single room .

Mammal: Animals that give birth to live babies and feed them with milk.

Meridian: An imaginary circle that passes through the North and South Poles dividing the Earth into the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It is where the longitude is defined as 0° and 180°.

Metamorphosis: A complete change from one stage of an organism’s life cycle to the next. Some caterpillars go through two stages as they change from larvae to pupa and then into an adult butterfly.

Methane: A gas. It can be made by nature or by humans. It is a "Greenhouse Gas." Methane is made when organic stuff, like plants are eaten by bugs and other creatures. Humans make methane when they burn gas and oil.

Migrate: To go live in another place.

Migration: Moving to another home. When birds migrate, they fly away to live in another place that has more food and warmer weather. Frogs migrate between spring and winter homes.

Mollusc: An invertebrate that usually, but not always, has a shell that covers all or part of its body. Some examples of molluscs are clams, snails, squid and octopuses.

Molting (molt): When an animal grows and sheds their hair, feathers, skin or shell. Molting frequently happens seasonally. Sheds are replaced with new growth.

Moratorium: An authorized period of waiting before the performance of an activity or the suspension of an activity.

Muskeg: A swamp or bog found in northern North America that is formed from a large amount of moss, leaves and decomposing matter.

Native species: A species that is naturally found in an area or ecosystem.

Naturalist: A person who studies or is interested in natural history.

Natural resources: Materials found in nature. Natural resources include things like land, water, forests, wildlife and minerals.

Nitrous Oxide: A gas. It can be made by nature or by humans. It is s "Greenhouse gas". Forms of moisture; rain, snow, sleet, and hail.

Nocturnal: Active during the night.

Nomadic: Nomadic people (nomads) travel according to the seasons to different places in search of food, water and grazing land for their animals.

Nonbiodegradable: Incapable of being broken down naturally into substances that will not harm the environment.

Nonrenewable: Nonliving resources (such as rocks and minerals, petroleum, coal, copper, gold…) that cannot be replaced, replenished, or renewed by natural processes or by human planning and practices.

Nutrients: Substances that are taken in by plants and animals to help them grow.

Nymphs: Baby bugs

Obesity: A condition describing excess body weight in the form of fat. Obesity is associated with many illnesses and can cause early mortality.

Omnivorous: Eating both animal and plant foods.

Organic: Related to living things; made by or gotten from plants or animals.

Organic farming: Farming without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

Organic food: Organic foods are grown and raised using absolutely no synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, hormones or genetically modified organisms on land or water that has been chemical-free for at least three years.

Organism: A living thing; a form of life, plant or animal.

Over-fishing: Taking so many fish from a certain area that the population might not be able to replace itself naturally. 

Oxygen (O2): A colourless, odorless, tasteless gas that is produced by plants and needed by animals, including people.

Ozone Layer: A layer of oxygen formed naturally, high above the Earth, which acts as a screen to protect plants and animals for the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Parasite: An organism that lives on or inside another species. A parasite takes nutrients from the host species but gives nothing back to it.

Permafrost: Permanently frozen land usually found in Arctic and Subarctic regions.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs): Chemical substances that stay in the environment for a long time. They can build up (bioaccumulate) in the food web and become very harmful to humans and other animals.

Pesticide: A chemical poison that is used to kill pests, such as insects, rodents or weeds.

pH: A measure that indicates the relative acidity or alkalinity of a substance. The pH scale ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most basic), with a pH of 7 being neutral.

Photosynthesis: The method whereby plants use the energy of sunlight to change carbon dioxide and water into food (sugars) for themselves.

Pit house: A type of house built by many North American tribes. Pit houses are made by digging a hole in the ground, then covering the hole with branches and dirt to form a cone-shaped roof. The entrance was frequently through an opening at the top accessed by a ladder.

Plankton: Small microscopic organisms that live in fresh and salt water. Plankton are important since many absorb carbon dioxide and produce a lot of the oxygen we breathe. They are also food for many larger aquatic organisms.

Plastic:The name given to a large group of substances made chemically from such materials as coal or oil mixed with water and limestone.

Poaching: Illegally taking or hunting wild plants, animals and fish.

Pollutant: Any substance that can make air, land or water dirty or impure.

Porous: Full of or having holes.

Precipitation: When water falls to the Earth in liquid or solid forms such as rain, snow, sleet or hail.

Predator: An animal that hunts and kills other animals for food.

Prehistoric: The time period before documented history.

Prey: Any animal that is caught and eaten by another animal.

Processed: To change something with a series of steps. Example: crude oil has to be processed into different oil products before it can be used.

Produce: Fresh fruits and vegetable grown for the market; same as "crop."

Pupa: The non-feeding, dormant stage in insect development between being a larvae and an adult.

Recycle: To process and treat discarded materials so that they can be used again.

Renewable: Something that can be replaced or regenerated before it is used up.

Renewable energy: Energy sources that can be replaced naturally in a short period of time. Examples include solar, wind, geothermal, and plant and animal matter.

Renewable resources: Resources that are restored or replaced at the same rate or faster than they are used. These include solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy as well as a great deal of plant and animal matter.

Reptile: A cold-blooded, vertebrate animal that has skin covered with scales. Some examples of reptiles are snakes, lizards, turtles and crocodiles.

Resources: Substances that support life and fulfill human needs, including air, land, water, minerals, fossil fuels, forests and sunlight.

Restoration: To work on changing something back to the way it was before.

Rural: Refers to the countryside or people who live in the country.

Scavenger: An animal or organism that eats scraps of food leftover from other animals or dead animals (carrion).

Sedge: A kind of plant that looks like grass. The stem of grass is round but sedge has a stem shaped like a triangle. It doesn’t grow very high.

Sedimentary rocks: Rocks formed by the deposit of minerals in an aquatic environment. Sedimentary rocks are usually formed in layers and over time they experience large amounts of pressure. Because of how they are formed many sedimentary rocks often contain fossils.

Shed: To let something fall off.

Shrub (or bush): A relatively short, woody plant with many stems coming from the base. It does not have a large trunk like a tree.

Sirenia: The species name for manatees and dugongs (otherwise known as sea cows). Sirenia species are large herbivore mammals that live in water.

Skimmer (filter feeder): An aquatic animal that swims through the water skimming and filtering small particles and organisms to eat. Examples include baleen whales.

Socially Responsible: This term usually describes businesses. Being socially responsible means that businesses operate in ways that do not harm the environment, provide good salaries and benefits for its employees and generally contribute to the welfare of their communities.

Solar Energy: Energy from the sun that can be used for heating or to make electricity.

Sonar: A system used by humans to locate objects by sending sound waves out and measuring the way that the sound bounces back. It is called echolocation when used by animals.

Species: A distinct kind of animal or plant that mates and has young with another of its kind.

Species of special concern: Plants or animals that are very sensitive to the activities of humans and the environment. They are not immediately threatened or endangered but are being monitored closely.

Species-at-risk: Plants and animals that have been assessed to be at-risk of disappearing completely or from a specific region. They are put into one of four official categories: extirpated, endangered, threatened or special concern.

Specimen: An individual example of a species.

Steward: A person who takes the responsibility of making decisions that will allow resources to be maintained for future generations.

Subarctic: The geographic area just south of the Arctic Circle.

Sustainable: The ability to continue/maintain into the future.

Sustainable agriculture: A method of agriculture that attempts to ensure the profitability of farms while preserving the environment.

Sustainable Development: Environmentally friendly forms of economic growth activities (agriculture, logging, manufacturing, etc.) that allow the continued production of a commodity without damage to the ecosystem (soil, water supplies, biodiversity or other surrounding resources). Meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Swamp: A wetland partially covered by water, and often dominated by trees.

Symbiosis: The process where two different kinds of organisms live together and usually benefit each other. Lichen is an example of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae.

Synthetic: Products or substances made by humans. They do not occur naturally.

Taiga: Another name for Boreal forest. See Boreal Forest.

Temperate: A region with moderate climate.

Temperate deciduous forest: A biome found southeast of the Boreal Forest biome in Canada. This biome gets its name because of the large number of deciduous trees found there.

Temperature: The measure of how hot or cold something is.

Terrestrial: Living or growing on the ground.

Territory: An area of land that an animal lives in and uses to find food and shelter.

Threatened: A plant or animal that is in danger of becoming endangered if nothing is done to help it. See Endangered.

Thorax: The middle part of an insect’s body, between the head and the abdomen.

Tides: The variation in the level of water at the shorelines of large bodies of water. It happens twice daily and is caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon.

Tipi (tepee): A cone-shaped home built with long poles tied together at the top and covered with animal hides. They were built by the Plains tribes of North America and could be easily taken down and transported when they travelled.

Topography: A detailed description of a geographic region showing height and depression in the landscape.

Topsoil: The rich organic layer of dirt from which plants get the nutrients they need.

Toxin: A chemical that acts like a poison and can cause injury or death.

Traditional knowledge: Local knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation, usually orally.

Transmitter: A device used to send or pass radio signals from one thing, or person or place to another.

Transpiration: The process of water moving through a plant ending in evaporation through the leaves.

Transplant: To grow a plant indoors and then plant it outdoors. Or to dig up a plant from one place and then plant it somewhere else.

Tree: A woody plant four to six metres tall with a single main stem (trunk) and a more or less distinct crown of leaves.

Tropical: The hot region around the equator between two imaginary circles that run around the Earth and are known as the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

Tuber: A round growth on the stem of a plant that stores nutrients for the plant and can form new buds or plants. Potatoes and peanuts are common examples of tubers.

Tundra: Canada’s most northern biome, it is also called a polar desert because of the lack of trees and precipitation. Some parts of the tundra have no vegetation but most have low plants covering it. In the summer only the top layer of soil thaws--the rest is permafrost.

Tusk: A long tooth that extends outside of the body. Usually an animal has two, like the elephant, walrus, or wild boar, but the narwhale only has one.

Upcycling: When waste materials are used to make new products of equal or higher quality.

Urbanization: The process of people moving to a centralized location where they build homes and other structures so they can live, work and play there.

Urban Sprawl: An unplanned and unexpected expansion of development in an area where homes, strip malls and roadways take over natural areas.

UV (ultraviolet) rays: Light rays from the sun that can potentially be harmful to skin and eyes. UV light is not visible by humans but is visible to many animals.

Vegetation: The mass of plants that covers a given area.

Vermicomposting: Using earthworms to turn organic material into compost.

Vertebrate: An animal that has an internal skeleton containing a spine or backbone.

Vibrate: Something is vibrating when it moves back and forth very fast.

Vulnerable: A plant or animal that is in danger of becoming threatened if nothing is done to help it. See Threatened.

Warm-blooded: Animals, such as mammals and birds, that maintain a constant body temperature regardless of the surrounding environment’s temperature. These animals are also called endothermic.

Waste management: The process of transporting, storing and dealing with discarded materials. Waste management includes trying to minimize waste by reusing, reducing, recycling and composting.

Wastewater: Water that has been used and discarded. It can come from homes or industry and is classified into two categories called greywater and blackwater. It requires treatment before being re-used.

Water cycle: See Hydrologic cycle.

Water vapour: Water in the form of a gas (visible as steam, clouds or invisible as in atmospheric water).

Weather: The day-to-day conditions of the atmosphere in a specific area. Variables include temperature, rainfall and wind.

Wetlands: Low-lying areas, (including bogs, deltas, marshes, swamps, ponds, or lakes), that are saturated with moisture and provide food-rich habitats for a wide variety of plants and animals.

Wigwam: A home that was built by many Eastern Woodlands tribes of North America. Depending on the tribe, the shape varied from domed to conical. Traditionally a wigwam was made using young saplings as a frame and had wall mats woven with cattails and birch bark.

Wildlife: Describes all native, non-domesticated animals and plants living in the wild.

Wind energy: A renewable energy source that uses the wind to turn a turbine and generate electricity.

Wind turbine: A large rotating machine that captures the energy in wind and converts it to electricity.

Wingspan: The distance from one wing tip to the end of the next in a bird, bat, bug or airplane.

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