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Ecology

  • Bird in flight.  Flight is a mode of locomotion that has co-evolved in several lineages in the animal kingdom.  Here, we see a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) in flight over Everglades National Park in Florida.  Photo credit: Brian K. Mealey.

    It's a bird! It's a plane! It's biomechanics!

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • identify and define forces that act on an object in flight.
    • understand the definition of Newton’s third law of motion, which states that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and apply this principle to explain pressure differences and lift generation.
    • generate hypotheses about animal flight efficiency based on examining morphology (anatomy).
    • generate hypotheses correlating wing size and performance during flight.
    • apply their understanding of wing designs and wing relationships to total mass.
    • compare flight principles among animals to understand the co-evolution in several animal groups.
  • A photo of grizzly bears fishing in the McNeil Falls in Alaska, taken using BearCam by Lawrence Griffing.

    Authentic Ecological Inquiries Using BearCam Archives

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • conduct an authentic ecological inquiry including
      • generate a testable hypothesis based on observations,
      • design investigation with appropriate sampling selection and variables,
      • collect and analyze data following the design, and
      • interpret results and draw conclusions based on the evidence.
    • write a research report with appropriate structure and style.
    • evaluate the quality of inquiry reports using a rubric.
    • conduct peer review to evaluate and provide feedback to others' work.
    • revise the inquiry report based on peer feedback and self-assessment.
  • DNA barcoding research in first-year biology curriculum

    CURE-all: Large Scale Implementation of Authentic DNA Barcoding Research into First-Year Biology Curriculum

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to: Week 1-4: Fundamentals of Science and Biology
    • List the major processes involved in scientific discovery
    • List the different types of scientific studies and which types can establish causation
    • Design experiments with appropriate controls
    • Create and evaluate phylogenetic trees
    • Define taxonomy and phylogeny and explain their relationship to each other
    • Explain DNA sequence divergence and how it applies to evolutionary relationships and DNA barcoding
    Week 5-6: Ecology
    • Define and measure biodiversity and explain its importance
    • Catalog organisms using the morphospecies concept
    • Geographically map organisms using smartphones and an online mapping program
    • Calculate metrics of species diversity using spreadsheet software
    • Use spreadsheet software to quantify and graph biodiversity at forest edges vs. interiors
    • Write a formal lab report
    Week 7-11: Cellular and Molecular Biology
    • Extract, amplify, visualize and sequence DNA using standard molecular techniques (PCR, gel electrophoresis, Sanger sequencing)
    • Explain how DNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and Sanger sequencing work at the molecular level
    Week 12-13: Bioinformatics
    • Trim and assemble raw DNA sequence data
    • Taxonomically identify DNA sequences isolated from unknown organisms using BLAST
    • Visualize sequence data relationships using sequence alignments and gene-based phylogenetic trees
    • Map and report data in a publicly available online database
    • Share data in a formal scientific poster
  • Using Place-Based Economically Relevant Organisms to Improve Student Understanding of the Roles of Carbon Dioxide,...

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
    • Describe the roles of light energy and carbon dioxide in photosynthetic organisms.
    • Identify the effect of nutrients on the growth of photosynthetic organisms.
    • Describe global cycles in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and how they relate to photosynthetic organisms.
  • An active-learning lesson that targets student understanding of population growth in ecology

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Calculate and compare population density and abundance.
    • Identify whether a growth curve describes exponential, linear, and/or logistic growth.
    • Describe and calculate a population's growth rate using linear, exponential, and logistic models.
    • Explain the influence of carrying capacity and population density on growth rate.