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Introductory Biology

  • 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
  • The Roc is a mythical giant bird of prey, first conceived during the Islamic Golden Age (~8th to 13th centuries CE), popularized in folk tales gathered in One Thousand One Nights. Rocs figured prominently in tales of Sinbad the Sailor. In this 1898 illustration by René Bull, the Roc is harassing two of Sinbad’s small fleet of ships. Illustration by René Bull is licensed under CC BY 2.0. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roc_(mythology)#mediaviewer/File:Rocweb.jpg)

    A first lesson in mathematical modeling for biologists: Rocs

    Learning Objectives
    • Systematically develop a functioning, discrete, single-species model of an exponentially-growing or -declining population.
    • Use the model to recommend appropriate action for population management.
    • Communicate model output and recommendations to non-expert audiences.
    • Generate a collaborative work product that most individuals could not generate on their own, given time and resource constraints.
  • 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.
  • A three-dimensional model of methionine is superimposed on a phase contrast micrograph of Saccharomyces cerevisiae from a log phase culture.

    Follow the Sulfur: Using Yeast Mutants to Study a Metabolic Pathway

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
    • use spot plating techniques to compare the growth of yeast strains on solid culture media.
    • predict the ability of specific met deletion strains to grow on media containing various sulfur sources.
    • predict how mutations in specific genes will affect the concentrations of metabolites in the pathways involved in methionine biosynthesis.