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Introductory Biology

  • photo credit John Friedlein. Author (SRB) helps a student troubleshooting RStudio in the workshop session of class.
  • Figure 2. ICB-Students come to class prepared to discuss the text
  • “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.
  • Adult female Daphnia dentifera. Daphnia spp. make a great study system due to their transparent body and their ease of upkeep in a lab.

    Dynamic Daphnia: An inquiry-based research experience in ecology that teaches the scientific process to first-year...

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Construct written predictions about 1 factor experiments.
    • Interpret simple (2 variables) figures.
    • Construct simple (2 variables) figures from data.
    • Design simple 1 factor experiments with appropriate controls.
    • Demonstrate proper use of standard laboratory items, including a two-stop pipette, stereomicroscope, and laboratory notebook.
    • Calculate means and standard deviations.
    • Given some scaffolding (instructions), select the correct statistical test for a data set, be able to run a t-test, ANOVA, chi-squared test, and linear regression in Microsoft Excel, and be able to correctly interpret their results.
    • Construct and present a scientific poster.
  • Pipets - photo by Magnus Manske

    Learning to Pipet Correctly by Pipetting Incorrectly?

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to use analytical balances and micropipettes.
    • Students will be able to calculate averages and standard deviations.
    • Students will be able to use t-tests to compare two independent samples.
    • Students will be able to justify accepting or rejecting a null hypothesis based on an interpretation of p-values.
    • Students will learn to use spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel and/or Google Sheets
    • Students will be able to explain how pipetting incorrectly leads to errors.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
     
  • Modeling the Research Process: Authentic human physiology research in a large non-majors course

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Read current scientific literature
    • Formulate testable hypotheses
    • Design an experimental procedure to test their hypothesis
    • Make scientific observations
    • Analyze and interpret data
    • Communicate results visually and orally
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Mechanisms regulating the lac operon system

    Discovering Prokaryotic Gene Regulation by Building and Investigating a Computational Model of the lac Operon

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • model how the components of the lac operon contribute to gene regulation and expression.
    • generate and test predictions using computational modeling and simulations.
    • interpret and record graphs displaying simulation results.
    • relate simulation results to cellular events.
    • describe how changes in environmental glucose and lactose levels impact regulation of the lac operon.
    • predict, test, and explain how mutations in specific elements in the lac operon affect their protein product and other elements within the operon.
  • Peterson MP, Rosvall KA, Choi J-H, Ziegenfus C, Tang H, Colbourne JK, et al. (2013) Testosterone Affects Neural Gene Expression Differently in Male and Female Juncos: A Role for Hormones in Mediating Sexual Dimorphism and Conflict. PLoS ONE 8(4): e61784. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061784

    Teaching RNAseq at Undergraduate Institutions: A tutorial and R package from the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching

    Learning Objectives
    • From raw RNAseq data, run a basic analysis culminating in a list of differentially expressed genes.
    • Explain and evaluate statistical tests in RNAseq data. Specifically, given the output of a particular test, students should be able to interpret and explain the result.
    • Use the Linux command line to complete specified objectives in an RNAseq workflow.
    • Generate meaningful visualizations of results from new data in R.
    • (In addition, each chapter of this lesson plan contains more specific learning objectives, such as “Students will demonstrate their ability to map reads to a reference.”)
  • The mechanisms regulating the trp operon system.

    Discovering Prokaryotic Gene Regulation with Simulations of the trp Operon

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Perturb and interpret simulations of the trp operon.
    • Define how simulation results relate to cellular events.
    • Describe the biological role of the trp operon.
    • Describe cellular mechanisms regulating the trp operon.
    • Explain mechanistically how changes in the extracellular environment affect the trp operon.
    • Define the impact of mutations on trp operon expression and regulation.