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  • 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)
  • Fully annotated mitochondrial genome of a lichenized fungal species (Cladonia subtenuis).  This represents a visual representation of the final project result of the lesson plan. Students will submit their annotation to NCBI (GenBank) and upon acceptance of their annotation, they typically add this publicly available resource into their resume.

    A CURE-based approach to teaching genomics using mitochondrial genomes

    Learning Objectives
    • Install the appropriate programs such as Putty and WinSCP.
    • Navigate NCBI's website including their different BLAST programs (e.g., blastn, tblastx, blastp and blastx)
    • Use command-line BLAST to identify mitochondrial contigs within a whole genome assembly
    • Filter the desired sequence (using grep) and move the assembled mitochondrial genome onto your own computer (using FTP or SCP)
    • Error-correct contigs (bwa mem, samtools tview), connect and circularize organellar contigs (extending from filtered reads)
    • Transform assembled sequences into annotated genomes
    • Orient to canonical start locations in the mitochondrial genome (cox1)
    • Identify the boundaries of all coding components of the mitochondrial genome using BLAST, including: Protein coding genes (BLASTx and tBLASTX), tRNAs (proprietary programs such as tRNAscan), rRNAs (BLASTn, Chlorobox), ORFs (NCBI's ORFFinder)
    • Deposit annotation onto genome repository (NCBI)
    • Update CV/resume to reflect bioinformatics skills learned in this lesson
  • 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.
  • Graphic of structured decision making process

    Using Structured Decision Making to Explore Complex Environmental Issues

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    1. Describe the process, challenges, and benefits of structured decision making for natural resource management decisions.
    2. Explain and reflect on the role of science and scientists in structured decision making and how those roles interact and compare to the roles of other stakeholders.
    3. Assess scientific evidence for a given management or policy action to resolve an environmental issue.