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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)
  • 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.
  • pClone Red Makes Research Look Easy

    Using Synthetic Biology and pClone Red for Authentic Research on Promoter Function: Genetics (analyzing mutant...

    Learning Objectives
    • Describe how cells can produce proteins at the right time and correct amount. 
    • Diagram a bacterial promoter with −35 and −10 elements and the transcription start site.
    • Describe how mutational analysis can be used to study promoter sequence requirements.
    • Develop a promoter mutation hypothesis and design an experiment to test it.
    • Successfully and safely manipulate DNA and Escherichia coli for ligation and transformation experiments. 
    • Design an experiment to verify a mutated 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.  
  • 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.
  • 3D Print Model of the Mars Curiosity Rover, printed from NASA 3D Resources (https://nasa3d.arc.nasa.gov/detail/mars-rover-curiosity)

    Exploring the March to Mars Using 3D Print Models

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to describe the major aspects of the Mars Curiosity Rover missions.
    • Students will be able to synthesize information learned from a classroom jigsaw activity on the Mars Curiosity Rover missions.
    • Students will be able to work in teams to plan a future manned mission to Mars.
    • Students will be able to summarize their reports to 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.
  • blind cave fish
  • 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.
  • Images of students participating in the SIDE activity

    Using a Sequential Interpretation of Data in Envelopes (SIDE) approach to identify a mystery TRP channel

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to analyze data from multiple experimental methodologies to determine the identity of their "mystery" TRP channel.
    • Students will be able to interpret the results of individual experiments and from multiple experiments simultaneously to identify their "mystery" TRP channel.
    • Students will be able to evaluate the advantages and limitations of experimental methodologies presented in this lesson.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This collage contains original images taken by the course instructor. The images show a microscopic view of stomata on the underside of a Brassica rapa leaf (A), B. rapa plants in their growth trays (B), a flowering B. rapa plant (C), and different concentrations of foliar protein (D). Photos edited via Microsoft Windows Photo Editor and Phototastic Collage Maker.

    A flexible, multi-week approach to plant biology - How will plants respond to higher levels of CO2?

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Apply findings from each week's lesson to make predictions and informed hypotheses about the next week's lesson.
    • Keep a detailed laboratory notebook.
    • Write and peer-edit the sections of a scientific paper, and collaboratively write an entire lab report in the form of a scientific research paper.
    • Search for, find, and read scientific research papers.
    • Work together as a team to conduct experiments.
    • Connect findings and ideas from each week's lesson to get a broader understanding of how plants will respond to higher levels of CO2 (e.g., stomatal density, photosynthetic/respiratory rates, foliar protein concentrations, growth, and resource allocation).
    Note: Additional, more specific objectives are included with each of the four lessons (Supporting Files S1-S4)
  • “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.
  • Students preforming the leaky neuron activity.

    The Leaky Neuron: Understanding synaptic integration using an analogy involving leaky cups

    Learning Objectives
    Students will able to:
    • compare and contrast spatial and temporal summation in terms of the number of presynaptic events and the timing of these events
    • predict the relative contribution to reaching threshold and firing an action potential as a function of distance from the axon hillock
    • predict how the frequency of incoming presynaptic action potentials effects the success of temporal summation of resultant postsynaptic potentials
  • Memory Helper is an illustration of a made up dietary supplement. Because the supplement is named Memory Helper, and because a picture of a brain is placed on the label, consumers might believe that the supplement is a memory aid. We add the footnote “tested?” to suggest that consumers should take a closer look.

    Bad Science: Exploring the unethical research behind a putative memory supplement

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • create criteria for evaluating information that is touted as scientific.
    • apply those criteria to evaluate the claim that Prevagen® enhances memory.
    • identify the misleading tactics used on the Prevagen® website and in their self-published reporting.
    • decide whether to recommend taking Prevagen® and explain their decisions.
  • Structure of protein ABCB6

    Investigating the Function of a Transport Protein: Where is ABCB6 Located in Human Cells?

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this activity students will be able to:
    • describe the use of two common research techniques for studying proteins: SDS-PAGE and immunoblot analysis.
    • determine a protein’s subcellular location based on results from: 1) immunoblotting after differential centrifugation, and 2) immunofluorescence microscopy.
    • analyze protein localization data based on the limitations of differential centrifugation and immunofluorescence microscopy.
  • 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.
  • Using QIIME to Interpret Environmental Microbial Communities in an Upper Level Metagenomics Course

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • list and perform the steps of sequence processing and taxonomic inference.
    • interpret microbial community diversity from metagenomic sequence datasets.
    • compare microbial diversity within and between samples or treatments.
  • DNA

    Using CRISPR-Cas9 to teach the fundamentals of molecular biology and experimental design

    Learning Objectives
    Module 1
    • Generate a testable hypothesis that requires a creative design of reagents based on critical reading of and review of prior research.
    • Demonstrate proficiency in using molecular cloning software to analyze, manipulate and verify DNA sequences.
    • Predict the downstream effect on the mRNA and protein after successfully inserting a DNA repair template into the genome of a cell/organism.
    • Compare and contrast the processes of DNA duplication and PCR.
    • Demonstrate the ability to design primers to amplify a nucleotide sequence.
    • Analyze and evaluate the results of DNA agarose gel electrophoresis.
    Module 2
    • Identify the key features in genomic DNA, specifically those required for CRISPR-Cas9 mediated gene edits.
    • Explain how compatible ends of DNA are used to produce recombinant DNA in a ligation reaction.
    • Explain the chemical principles behind plasmid DNA purification from bacterial cultures.
    • Devise a strategy to screen clones based on antibiotic selection and the mechanism of digestion by DNA endonucleases.
    • Predict and evaluate the results of a diagnostic digest.
    Module 3
    • Explain the chemical principles behind DNA purification using phenol-chloroform extraction and ethanol precipitation.
    • Explain the key differences between DNA duplication and transcription.
    • Demonstrate the ability to perform lab work with sterile technique.
    • Compare and contrast the results of a non-denaturing vs. denaturing agarose gel.
    • Evaluate the results of a denaturing agarose gel.
    Module 4
    • Design and implement an experiment that tests the CRISPR-Cas9 principle.
    • Predict the outcome of a successful in vitro Cas9 digest.
    Presentation of Data Post Lesson
    • Summarize important background information on gene of interest from analysis of primary literature.
    • Produce figures and figure legends that clearly indicate results.
    • Organize and construct a poster that clearly and professionally displays the important aspects of the lesson.
    • Demonstrate understanding of the lesson by presenting a poster to an audience in lay terms, mid-level terms, or at an expert level.
    • Demonstrate understanding of procedures by writing a formal materials and methods paper.
  • Image of tick from US Department of Agriculture_ARS photo by Scott Bauer

    Mice, Acorns, and Lyme Disease: a Case Study to Teach the Ecology of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to...
    • outline the life cycle of ticks and explain the transmission cycle of Lyme disease.
    • describe factors that make mice a competent reservoir for Borrelia burgdorferi.
    • analyze and interpret line and bar graphs of data on the effects of changes to ecological communities on the risk of human exposure to Lyme disease.
    • explain how the incidence of Lyme disease is determined by interactions between bacteria, animals, humans and the environment.
    • predict how changes in the ecosystem affect Borrelia burgdorferi transmission.
    • explain how human activities affect biodiversity and the consequences of those actions on disease outbreaks.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sample Student Growth Curve. This image shows a yeast growth curve generated by a student in our lab, superimposed on an image of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells.

    Using Yeast to Make Scientists: A Six-Week Student-Driven Research Project for the Cell Biology Laboratory

    Learning Objectives
    • Learn about basic S. cerevisiae biology
    • Use sterile technique
    • Perform a yeast viability assay
    • Use a spectrophotometer to measure growth of S. cerevisiae
    • Perform a literature search
    • Calculate concentrations of chemicals appropriate for S. cerevisiae
    • Generate S. cerevisiae growth curves
    • Troubleshoot experimental difficulties
    • Perform statistical analysis
    • Present findings to an audience
  • 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
  • Format of a typical course meeting
  • Building a Model of Tumorigenesis: A small group activity for a cancer biology/cell biology course

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of the activity, students will be able to:
    • Analyze data from a retrospective clinical study uncovering genetic alterations in colorectal cancer.
    • Draw conclusions about human tumorigenesis using data from a retrospective clinical study.
    • Present scientific data in an appropriate and accurate way.
    • Discuss why modeling is an important practice of science.
    • Create a simple model of the genetic changes associated with a particular human cancer.
  • Abelson kinase signaling network. The image shows many connections between genes and illustrates that signaling molecules and pathways function within networks. It emphasizes the indispensability of computational tools in understanding the molecular functioning of cells. The image was generated with Cytoscape from publicly accessible protein-protein interactions databases.

    Investigating Cell Signaling with Gene Expression Datasets

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Explain the hierarchical organization of signal transduction pathways.
    • Explain the role of enzymes in signal propagation and amplification.
    • Recognize the centrality of signaling pathways in cellular processes, such as metabolism, cell division, or cell motility.
    • Rationalize the etiologic basis of disease in terms of deranged signaling pathways.
    • Use software to analyze and interpret gene expression data.
    • Use an appropriate statistical method for hypotheses testing.
    • Produce reports that are written in scientific style.
  • The mechanisms regulating the cellular respiration system.

    Discovering Cellular Respiration with Computational Modeling and Simulations

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Describe how changes in cellular homeostasis affect metabolic intermediates.
    • Perturb and interpret a simulation of cellular respiration.
    • Describe cellular mechanisms regulating cellular respiration.
    • Describe how glucose, oxygen, and coenzymes affect cellular respiration.
    • Describe the interconnectedness of cellular respiration.
    • Identify and describe the inputs and outputs of cellular respiration, glycolysis, pyruvate processing, citric acid cycle, and the electron transport chain.
    • Describe how different energy sources are used in cellular respiration.
    • Trace carbon through cellular respiration from glucose to carbon dioxide.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • The MAP Kinase signal transduction pathway

    Cell Signaling Pathways - a Case Study Approach

    Learning Objectives
    • Use knowledge of positive and negative regulation of signaling pathways to predict the outcome of genetic modifications or pharmaceutical manipulation.
    • From phenotypic data, predict whether a mutation is in a coding or a regulatory region of a gene involved in signaling.
    • Use data, combined with knowledge of pathways, to make reasonable predictions about the genetic basis of altered signaling pathways.
    • Interpret and use pathway diagrams.
    • Synthesize information by applying prior knowledge on gene expression when considering congenital syndromes.
  • 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.
  • 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.