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Introductory Biology

  • Format of a typical course meeting
  • Image from http://www.epa.gov/airdata/ad_maps.html

    Air Quality Data Mining: Mining the US EPA AirData website for student-led evaluation of air quality issues

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Describe various parameters of air quality that can negatively impact human health, list priority air pollutants, and interpret the EPA Air Quality Index as it relates to human health.
    • Identify an air quality problem that varies on spatial and/or temporal scales that can be addressed using publicly available U.S. EPA air data.
    • Collect appropriate U.S. EPA Airdata information needed to answer that/those questions, using the U.S. EPA Airdata website data mining tools.
    • Analyze the data as needed to address or answer their question(s).
    • Interpret data and draw conclusions regarding air quality levels and/or impacts on human and public health.
    • Communicate results in the form of a scientific paper.
  • Hydrozoan polyps on a hermit-crab shell (photo by Tiffany Galush)

    A new approach to course-based research using a hermit crab-hydrozoan symbiosis

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • define different types of symbiotic interactions, with specific examples.
    • summarize and critically evaluate contemporary primary literature relevant to ecological symbioses, in particular that between hermit crabs and Hydractinia spp.
    • articulate a question, based on observations of a natural phenomenon (in this example, the hermit crab-Hydractinia interaction).
    • articulate a testable hypothesis, based on their own observations and read of the literature.
    • design appropriate experimental or observational studies to address their hypotheses.
    • collect and interpret data in light of their hypotheses.
    • problem-solve and troubleshoot issues that arise during their experiment.
    • communicate scientific results, both orally and in written form.
  • Using phylogenetics to make inferences about historical biogeographic patterns of evolution.

    Building Trees: Introducing evolutionary concepts by exploring Crassulaceae phylogeny and biogeography

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Estimate phylogenetic trees using diverse data types and phylogenetic models.
    • Correctly make inferences about evolutionary history and relatedness from the tree diagrams obtained.
    • Use selected computer programs for phylogenetic analysis.
    • Use bootstrapping to assess the statistical support for a phylogeny.
    • Use phylogenetic data to construct, compare, and evaluate the role of geologic processes in shaping the historical and current geographic distributions of a group of organisms.
  • 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
  • blind cave fish
  • Enzymatic avocado browning is driven by polyphenol oxidase. Mashed avocado pulp is bright green but turns dark brown over the course of two hours at room temperature in the presence of air and salt. This reaction can be accelerated or inhibited by more than 20 different testable reagents, allowing students to explore experimental design.

    The Avocado Lab: An Inquiry-Driven Exploration of an Enzymatic Browning Reaction

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • develop a testable research question and supportive hypothesis regarding the browning of damaged avocado flesh caused by the activity of avocado polyphenol oxidase (aPPO).
    • design and execute a well-controlled experiment to test aPPO hypotheses.
    • evaluate qualitative enzyme activity data.
    • create a figure and legend to present qualitative data that tests multiple hypotheses and variables.
    • search for and correctly cite primary literature to support or refute hypotheses.
    • know the role of reducing reagents, pH, chelators, and temperature in reactions catalyzed by aPPO.
    • explain why the effects of salt and detergent differ for aPPO experiments conducted in situ
    • (in mashed avocado flesh) as compared to in vitro (on purified protein).
    • discuss how substrate and cofactor availability affect aPPO reactions.
    • describe how endogenous subcellular organization restricts aPPO reactions in a healthy avocado.
    • evaluate food handling practices for fruits expressing PPO.
  • This collage contains original images taken by the course instructor. The images show a microscopic view of stomata on the underside of a Brassica rapa leaf (A), B. rapa plants in their growth trays (B), a flowering B. rapa plant (C), and different concentrations of foliar protein (D). Photos edited via Microsoft Windows Photo Editor and Phototastic Collage Maker.

    A flexible, multi-week approach to plant biology - How will plants respond to higher levels of CO2?

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Apply findings from each week's lesson to make predictions and informed hypotheses about the next week's lesson.
    • Keep a detailed laboratory notebook.
    • Write and peer-edit the sections of a scientific paper, and collaboratively write an entire lab report in the form of a scientific research paper.
    • Search for, find, and read scientific research papers.
    • Work together as a team to conduct experiments.
    • Connect findings and ideas from each week's lesson to get a broader understanding of how plants will respond to higher levels of CO2 (e.g., stomatal density, photosynthetic/respiratory rates, foliar protein concentrations, growth, and resource allocation).
    Note: Additional, more specific objectives are included with each of the four lessons (Supporting Files S1-S4)