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Introductory Biology

  • Monarch larvae

    Does it pose a threat? Investigating the impact of Bt corn on monarch butterflies

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Apply genetics concepts to a relevant case study of Bt corn and monarch butterflies
    • Read figures and text from primary literature
    • Identify claims presented in scientific studies
    • Evaluate data presented in scientific studies
    • Critically reason using data
    • Evaluate the consequences of GM technology on non-target organisms
    • Communicate scientific data orally
  • Image from

    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.
  • Figure 2. ICB-Students come to class prepared to discuss the text
  • 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.
  • Arabidopsis Seedling

    Linking Genotype to Phenotype: The Effect of a Mutation in Gibberellic Acid Production on Plant Germination

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • identify when germination occurs.
    • score germination in the presence and absence of GA to construct graphs of collated class data of wild-type and mutant specimens.
    • identify the genotype of an unknown sample based on the analysis of their graphical data.
    • organize data and perform quantitative data analysis.
    • explain the importance of GA for plant germination.
    • connect the inheritance of a mutation with the observed phenotype.
  • Students engaged in building the PCR model

    A Close-Up Look at PCR

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this lesson students will be able to...
    • Describe the role of a primer in PCR
    • Predict sequence and length of PCR product based on primer sequences
    • Recognize that primers are incorporated into the final PCR products and explain why
    • Identify covalent and hydrogen bonds formed and broken during PCR
    • Predict the structure of PCR products after each cycle of the reaction
    • Explain why amplification proceeds exponentially
  • photo credit John Friedlein. Author (SRB) helps a student troubleshooting RStudio in the workshop session of class.
  • This is a representation of what might happen during peer discussion.

    In-class peer grading of daily quizzes increases feedback opportunities

    Learning Objectives
    Each of these objectives are illustrated with a succinct slide presentation or other supplemental material available ahead of class time through the course administration system. Learners found it particularly helpful to have video clips that remind them of mathematical manipulations available (in the above example objective c). Students understand that foundational objectives tend to be the focus of the quiz (objectives a-d) and that others will be given more time to work on together in class (objectives e-g), but I don't specify this exactly to reduce temptation that 'gamers' take a shortcut that would impact their group work negatively later on. However, the assignment for a focused graded group activity is posted as well, so it is clear what we are working towards; if desired individuals could prepare ahead of the class.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • “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.
  • Simplified Representation of the Global Carbon Cycle,

    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.
  • 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.