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Science Process Skills

  • A A student assists Colorado Parks & Wildlife employees spawning greenback cutthroat trout at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery; B greenback cutthroat trout adults in a hatchery raceway; C tissue samples collected by students to be used for genetic analysis (images taken by S. Love Stowell)

    Cutthroat trout in Colorado: A case study connecting evolution and conservation

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • interpret figures such as maps, phylogenies, STRUCTURE plots, and networks for species delimitation
    • identify sources of uncertainty and disagreement in real data sets
    • propose research to address or remedy uncertainty
    • construct an evidence-based argument for the management of a rare taxon
  • Plant ecology students surveying vegetation at Red Hills, CA, spring 2012.  From left to right are G.L, F.D, A.M., and R.P.  Photo used with permission from all students.

    Out of Your Seat and on Your Feet! An adaptable course-based research project in plant ecology for advanced students

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • Articulate testable hypotheses. (Lab 8, final presentation/paper, in-class exercises)
    • Analyze data to determine the level of support for articulated hypotheses. (Labs 4-7, final presentation/paper)
    • Identify multiple species of plants in the field quickly and accurately. (Labs 2-3, field trip)
    • Measure environmental variables and sample vegetation in the field. (Labs 2-3, field trip)
    • Analyze soil samples using a variety of low-tech lab techniques. (Open labs after field trip)
    • Use multiple statistical techniques to analyze data for patterns. (Labs 4-8, final presentation/paper)
    • Interpret statistical analyses to distinguish between strong and weak interactions in a biological system. (Labs 4-7, final presentation/paper)
    • Develop and present a conference-style presentation in a public forum. (Lab 8, final presentation/paper)
    • Write a publication-ready research paper communicating findings and displaying data. (Lab 8, final presentation/paper)
  • 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.
  • CRISPR/Cas9 in yeast experimental overview

    CRISPR/Cas9 in yeast: a multi-week laboratory exercise for undergraduate students

    Learning Objectives
    Week 1: CRISPR design
    • Locate the coding sequence, flanking sequence, protein product, and characteristics of a given gene from the Saccharomyces Genome Database (https://www.yeastgenome.org/).
    • Design and defend the design of guide RNA and single stranded template for DNA repair in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing studies to generate Saccharomyces cerevisiae auxotrophic mutants.
    Week 3-4: Cloning
    • Describe the qualities of the vector, pML104, that allow replication and selection in bacteria and yeast as well as allow expression of necessary factors in CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, including Cas9 and sgRNA.
    • Describe the rationale of and perform procedures necessary for cloning a small cassette (i.e., sgRNA gene) into a vector (i.e., pML104) including; restriction digest, annealing of DNA strands, removal of 5’ phosphates, ligation, and transformation.
    • Recognize and design appropriate controls for cloning procedures such as ligation and transformation.
    Week 5: Screening clones
    • Describe the method of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), including the rationale for essential components of a reaction mixture and thermal-cycling conditions.
    • Locate the binding sites of and design primers for PCR, then report the expected size of the amplification product.
    • Describe and perform isolation of plasmid DNA from E. coli.  
    Week 6: Selection of clones and transformation of yeast
    • Describe the rationale for and perform procedures to transform yeast, including the essential components of a transformation mixture and conditions necessary for transformation.
    • Describe the basic conditions required for cultivating yeast.
    • Describe the rationale for and perform agarose gel electrophoresis of a given size of DNA.
    • Analyze DNA separated by agarose gel electrophoresis, including size estimation.
    • Recognize and describe the qualities of a template for DNA repair that allows efficient DNA repair. 
    Week 7: Phenotyping
    • Design an experiment to determine auxotrophic phenotypes.
    • Predict the outcome of multi-step experiments.
    Multiweek
    • Recognize and describe conditions necessary for growth of E. coli and S. cerevisiae.
    • Qualitatively and quantitatively analyze scientific data from scientific experiments, including bacterial and yeast transformation, agarose gel electrophoresis, extraction of plasmid DNA from bacteria, PCR, and auxotroph phenotypic analysis.
    • Communicate science to peers through maintenance of a laboratory notebook, verbal communication with group members, and writing of a formal laboratory report written in a format acceptable for journal publication.
    • Troubleshoot scientific protocols by identifying procedures that are prone to error, comparing recommended protocols to actual procedure, and using positive and negative controls to narrow the location of a potential error.
    • Communicate specific potential or actual uses of CRISPR/Cas9 in science and/or medicine.
    Alignment with Society-Generated Learning Objectives - From Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Genetics Learning Frameworks
    • Use various bioinformatics approaches to analyze macromolecular primary sequence and structure.
    • Illustrate how DNA is replicated and genes are transmitted from one generation to the next in multiple types of organisms including bacteria, eukaryotes, viruses, and retroviruses.
    • Define what a genome consists of and how the information in various genes and other sequence classes within each genome are used to store and express genetic information.
    • Explain the meaning of ploidy (haploid, diploid, aneuploid etc.) and how it relates to the number of homologues of each chromosome. 
    • Predict the effects of mutations on the activity, structure, or stability of a protein and design appropriate experiments to assess the effects of mutations.
    • Predict the growth behavior of microbes based on their growth conditions, e.g., temperature, available nutrient, aeration level, etc.
    • Discuss the benefits of specific tools of modern biotechnology that are derived from naturally occurring microbes (e.g. cloning vectors, restriction enzymes, Taq polymerase, etc.)
    • Accurately prepare and use reagents and perform experiments.
    • When presented with an observation, develop a testable and falsifiable hypothesis.
    • When provided with a hypothesis, identify the appropriate experimental observations and controllable variables.
  • 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.
  • Set Up Fly Traps: The photo is of the fly traps after being set up for the experiment

    Gotcha! Which fly trap is the best? An introduction to experimental data collection and analysis

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • design and execute an experiment
    • collect, organize, and summarize data
    • analyze and interpret data and make inferences
  • Possible implementations of a short research module

    A Short Laboratory Module to Help Infuse Metacognition during an Introductory Course-based Research Experience

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of data.
    • Students will be able to employ prior knowledge in formulating a biological research question or hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to distinguish a research question from a testable hypothesis.
    • Students will recognize that the following are essential elements in experimental design: identifying gaps in prior knowledge, picking an appropriate approach (ex. experimental tools and controls) for testing a hypothesis, and reproducibility and repeatability.
    • Students will be able to identify appropriate experimental tools, approaches and controls to use in testing a hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to accurately explain why an experimental approach they have selected is a good choice for testing a particular hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to discuss whether experimental outcomes support or fail to support a particular hypothesis, and in the case of the latter, discuss possible reasons why.
  • Summary diagram of the Pipeline CURE. A diagram describing how undergraduates, faculty, and research trainees progress through a sequence of guided research activities that develop student independence.
  • 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
  • Strawberries

    The Case of the Missing Strawberries: RFLP analysis

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Describe the relationship of cells, chromosomes, and DNA.
    • Isolate DNA from strawberries.
    • Digest DNA with restriction enzymes.
    • Perform gel electrophoresis.
    • Design an experiment to compare DNAs by RFLP analysis.
    • Predict results of RFLP analysis.
    • Interpret results of RFLP analysis.
    • Use appropriate safety procedures in the lab.
  • A photo of grizzly bears fishing in the McNeil Falls in Alaska, taken using BearCam by Lawrence Griffing.

    Authentic Ecological Inquiries Using BearCam Archives

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • conduct an authentic ecological inquiry including
      • generate a testable hypothesis based on observations,
      • design investigation with appropriate sampling selection and variables,
      • collect and analyze data following the design, and
      • interpret results and draw conclusions based on the evidence.
    • write a research report with appropriate structure and style.
    • evaluate the quality of inquiry reports using a rubric.
    • conduct peer review to evaluate and provide feedback to others' work.
    • revise the inquiry report based on peer feedback and self-assessment.
  • pClone Red Makes Research Look Easy

    Using Synthetic Biology and pClone Red for Authentic Research on Promoter Function: Introductory Biology (identifying...

    Learning Objectives
    • Describe how cells can produce proteins at the right time and correct amount.
    • Diagram how a repressor works to reduce transcription.
    • Diagram how an activator works to increase transcription.
    • Identify a new promoter from literature and design a method to clone it and test its function.
    • Successfully and safely manipulate DNA and Escherichia coli for ligation and transformation experiments.
    • Design an experiment to verify a new promoter has been cloned into a destination vector.
    • Design an experiment to measure the strength of a promoter.
    • Analyze data showing reporter protein produced and use the data to assess promoter strength.
    • Define type IIs restriction enzymes.
    • Distinguish between type II and type IIs restriction enzymes.
    • Explain how Golden Gate Assembly (GGA) works.
    • Measure the relative strength of a promoter compared to a standard promoter.
  • 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.
  • Example image of dividing cells obtained from the Allen Institute for Cell Science 3D Cell Viewer.

    A virtual laboratory on cell division using a publicly-available image database

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will name and describe the salient features and cellular tasks for each stage of cell division.
    • Students will predict the relative durations of the stages of cell division using prior knowledge and facts from assigned readings.
    • Students will describe the relationship between duration of each stage of cell division and the frequency of cells present in each stage of cell division counted in a random sample of images of pluripotent stem cells.
    • Students will identify the stages of cell division present in research-quality images of human pluripotent stem cells in various stages of cell division.
    • Students will quantify, analyze and summarize data on the prevalence of cells at different stages of cell division in randomly sampled cell populations.
    • Students will use data to reflect on and revise predictions.
  • Neutrophils in a Danio rerio Embryo. Student-generated picture of a wounded zebrafish embryo that was stained to show the neutrophils (small black dots) that had migrated toward the wound site on the fin.

    Inexpensive Cell Migration Inquiry Lab using Zebrafish

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • formulate a hypothesis and design an experiment with the proper controls.
    • describe the steps involved in the zebrafish wounding assay (treating zebrafish embryos with drugs or control substances, wounding the embryo, staining the embryo, and counting neutrophils near the wound).
    • summarize results into a figure and write a descriptive figure legend.
    • perform appropriate statistical analysis.
    • interpret results in a discussion that draws connections between the cytoskeleton and cell migration.
    • put data into context by appropriately using information from journal articles in the introduction and discussion of a lab report.
  • Genome view obtained from the integrated genome viewer: screenshot of Illumina 75bp single-end reads from two rockfishes Sebastes chrysomelas (top) and S. carnatus (bottom) aligned to a closely related reference genome (S. rubrivinctus).  Reads shown are within the coding region of a gene that was located in an island of genomic divergence between the two species.  The CT mutation within S. carnatus is predicted to cause an amino acid substitution from Lysine to Phenylalanine in a taste receptor gene.  This

    An Introduction to Eukaryotic Genome Analysis in Non-model Species for Undergraduates: A tutorial from the Genome...

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of the activity, students will be able to:
    • Explain the steps involved in genome assembly, annotation, and variant detection to other students and instructors.
    • Create meaningful visualizations of their data using the integrated genome viewer.
    • Use the Linux command line and web-based tools to answer research questions.
    • Produce annotated genomes and call variants from raw sequencing reads in non-model species.
  • “The outcome of the Central Dogma is not always intuitive” Variation in gene size does not necessarily correlate with variation in protein size. Here, two related genes differ in length due to a deletion mutation that removes four nucleotides. Many students do not predict that the smaller gene, after transcription and translation, would produce a larger protein.

    Predicting and classifying effects of insertion and deletion mutations on protein coding regions

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • accurately predict effects of frameshift mutations in protein coding regions
    • conduct statistical analysis to compare expected and observed values
    • become familiar with accessing and using DNA sequence databases and analysis tools
  • Students at Century College use gel electrophoresis to analyze PCR samples in order to detect a group of ampicillin-resistance genes.

    Antibiotic Resistance Genes Detection in Environmental Samples

    Learning Objectives
    After completing this laboratory series, students will be able to:
    • apply the scientific method in formulating a hypothesis, designing a controlled experiment using appropriate molecular biology techniques, and analyzing experimental results;
    • conduct a molecular biology experiment and explain the principles behind methodologies, such as accurate use of micropipettes, PCR (polymerase chain reaction), and gel electrophoresis;
    • determine the presence of antibiotic-resistance genes in environmental samples by analyzing PCR products using gel electrophoresis;
    • explain mechanisms of microbial antibiotic resistance;
    • contribute data to the Antibiotic Resistance Genes Network;
    • define and apply key concepts of antibiotic resistance and gene identification via PCR fragment size.
  • Hydrozoan polyps on a hermit-crab shell (photo by Tiffany Galush)

    A new approach to course-based research using a hermit crab-hydrozoan symbiosis

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • define different types of symbiotic interactions, with specific examples.
    • summarize and critically evaluate contemporary primary literature relevant to ecological symbioses, in particular that between hermit crabs and Hydractinia spp.
    • articulate a question, based on observations of a natural phenomenon (in this example, the hermit crab-Hydractinia interaction).
    • articulate a testable hypothesis, based on their own observations and read of the literature.
    • design appropriate experimental or observational studies to address their hypotheses.
    • collect and interpret data in light of their hypotheses.
    • problem-solve and troubleshoot issues that arise during their experiment.
    • communicate scientific results, both orally and in written form.
  • 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