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Introductory Biology

  • Students present their posters to classmates and instructors during a poster fair.

    Discovery Poster Project

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • identify and learn about a scientific research discovery of interest to them using popular press articles and the primary literature
    • find a group on campus doing research that aligns with their interests and communicate with the faculty leader of that group
    • create and present a poster that synthesizes their knowledge of the research beyond the discovery
  • A crossbill feeds on a pinecone

    Coevolution or not? Crossbills, squirrels and pinecones

    Learning Objectives
    1. Define coevolution.
    2. Identify types of evidence that would help determine whether two species are currently in a coevolutionary relationship.
    3. Interpret graphs.
    4. Evaluate evidence about whether two species are coevolving and use evidence to make a scientific argument.
    5. Describe what evidence of a coevolutionary relationship might look like.
    6. Distinguish between coadaptation and coevolution.
  • 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
  • Two cells stained

    Bad Cell Reception? Using a cell part activity to help students appreciate cell biology, with an improved data plan and...

    Learning Objectives
    • Identify cell parts and explain their function
    • Explain how defects in a cell part can result in human disease
    • Generate thought-provoking questions that expand upon existing knowledge
    • Create a hypothesis and plan an experiment to answer a cell part question
    • Find and reference relevant cell biology journal articles
  • 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:

    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.
  • “Phenology of a Dawn Redwood” – Images collected by students for this lesson pieced together illustrating a Metasequoia glyptostroboides changing color and dropping its leaves in the fall of 2017 on Michigan State University campus.

    Quantifying and Visualizing Campus Tree Phenology

    Learning Objectives
    The Learning Objectives of this lesson span across the entire semester.
    • Observe and collect information on phenological changes in local trees.
    • Become familiar with a database and how to work with large datasets.
    • Analyze and visualize data from the database to test their hypotheses and questions.
    • Develop a research proposal including empirically-driven questions and hypotheses.
    • Synthesize the results of their analysis in the context of plant biodiversity and local environmental conditions.
  • Image from a clicker-based case study on muscular dystrophy and the effect of mutations on the processes in the central dogma.

    A clicker-based case study that untangles student thinking about the processes in the central dogma

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • explain the differences between silent (no change in the resulting amino acid sequence), missense (a change in the amino acid sequence), and nonsense (a change resulting in a premature stop codon) mutations.
    • differentiate between how information is encoded during DNA replication, transcription, and translation.
    • evaluate how different types of mutations (silent, missense, and nonsense) and the location of those mutations (intron, exon, and promoter) differentially affect the processes in the central dogma.
    • predict the molecular (DNA size, mRNA length, mRNA abundance, and protein length) and/or phenotypic consequences of mutations.