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Introductory Biology

  • “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.
  • Cold-blooded animals and chemical kinetics

    Teaching the Biological Relevance of Chemical Kinetics Using Cold-Blooded Animal Biology

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Predict the effect of reaction temperature on the rate of a chemical reaction
    • Interpret a graph plotted between rate of a chemical reaction and temperature
    • Discuss chemical kinetics utilizing case studies of cold-blooded animals
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Newspapers for a rainy day, filled with reports of the ways that science and society are interwoven. ©Eleanor Vandegrift

    Building student literacy and metacognition through reading science in the news

    Learning Objectives
    For each specific topic (stem cells and cloning, genetically modified organisms, and the human genome and human genetic diseases), students will be able to:
    • describe the underlying biology and explore how scientific reasoning and methods develop this understanding,
    • discuss the types of policy decisions that regulate studies related to biology or its application to human or environmental health,
    • evaluate scientific information to distinguish reliable information from propaganda,
    • explain how scientific controversies can arise when the same scientific questions are approached in different ways,
    • explore why some types of biological issues trigger regulatory decisions that can affect both research that would deepen our understanding of the issue and application of the results to policy decisions,
    • write about scientists who are researching topics related to our course, and
    • read science writing published in popular media sources.
  • Simplified Representation of the Global Carbon Cycle, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/CarbonCycle/images/carbon_cycle.jpg

    Promoting Climate Change Literacy for Non-majors: Implementation of an atmospheric carbon dioxide modeling activity as...

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to manipulate and produce data and graphs.
    • Students will be able to design a simple mathematical model of atmospheric CO2 that can be used to make predictions.
    • Students will be able to conduct simulations, analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions about atmospheric CO2 levels from their own computer generated simulated data.
     
  • Human karyotype

    Homologous chromosomes? Exploring human sex chromosomes, sex determination and sex reversal using bioinformatics...

    Learning Objectives
    Students successfully completing this lesson will:
    • Practice navigating an online bioinformatics resource and identify evidence relevant to solving investigation questions
    • Contrast the array of genes expected on homologous autosomal chromosomes pairs with the array of genes expected on sex chromosome pairs
    • Use bioinformatics evidence to defend the definition of homologous chromosomes
    • Define chromosomal sex and defend the definition using experimental data
    • Investigate the genetic basis of human chromosomal sex determination
    • Identify at least two genetic mutations can lead to sex reversal
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • American coot (Fulica Americana) family at the Cloisters City Park pond in Morrow Bay, CA. "Mike" Michael L. Baird [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Fulica_americana3.jpg

    Knowing your own: A classroom case study using the scientific method to investigate how birds learn to recognize their...

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to identify and describe the steps of the scientific method.
    • Students will be able to develop hypotheses and predictions.
    • Students will be able to construct and interpret bar graphs based on data and predictions.
    • Students will be able to draw conclusions from data presented in graphical form.
  • Evaluating the Quick Fix: Weight Loss Drugs and Cellular Respiration Image File: QuickFixPrimImage.tiff Sources for images: Balance: Public Domain CCO http://www.pd4pic.com/scales-justice-scale-libra-balance-weighbridge.html Mitochondria: https://thumb7.shutterstock.com/thumb_large/1503584/235472731/stock-vector-mitochondrion-235472731.jpg Pills: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2014/07/05/15/16/pills-384846_960_720.jpg

    Evaluating the Quick Fix: Weight Loss Drugs and Cellular Respiration

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to explain how the energy from sugars is transformed into ATP via cellular respiration.
    • Students will be able to predict an outcome if there is a perturbation in the cellular respiration pathway.
    • Students will be able to state and evaluate a hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to interpret data from a graph, and use that data to make inferences about the action of a drug.