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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)
  • Bird in flight.  Flight is a mode of locomotion that has co-evolved in several lineages in the animal kingdom.  Here, we see a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) in flight over Everglades National Park in Florida.  Photo credit: Brian K. Mealey.

    It's a bird! It's a plane! It's biomechanics!

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • identify and define forces that act on an object in flight.
    • understand the definition of Newton’s third law of motion, which states that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and apply this principle to explain pressure differences and lift generation.
    • generate hypotheses about animal flight efficiency based on examining morphology (anatomy).
    • generate hypotheses correlating wing size and performance during flight.
    • apply their understanding of wing designs and wing relationships to total mass.
    • compare flight principles among animals to understand the co-evolution in several animal groups.
  • photo credit John Friedlein. Author (SRB) helps a student troubleshooting RStudio in the workshop session of class.
  • 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.
  • A schematic of the relationship between the different types of pasta or beans and the respective gut and environmental bacteria

    The impact of diet and antibiotics on the gut microbiome

    Learning Objectives
    After completing the exercise, students will be able to:
    • Identify several of the nine phyla that contribute to the gut microbiome and name the two predominant ones;
    • Describe how diet impacts the gut microbiome and compare the composition of the gut microbiome between different diets;
    • Describe how antibiotic treatment impacts the gut microbiome and understand how this leads to infection, for example by Clostridium difficile;
    • Trace the response to a change in diet, starting with i) changes in the composition of the microbiome, followed by ii) changes in the bacterial metabolic pathways and the respective excreted metabolic products, resulting in iii) a molecular response in the host intestinal cells, and eventually iv) resulting in human disease;
    • Improve their ability to read scientific literature;
    • Express themselves orally and in writing;
    • Develop team working skill
  • 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
  • SNP model by David Eccles (gringer) [GFDL ( or CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

    Exploration of the Human Genome by Investigation of Personalized SNPs

    Learning Objectives
    Students successfully completing this lesson will be able to:
    • Effectively use the bioinformatics databases (SNPedia, the UCSC Genome Browser, and NCBI) to explore SNPs of interest within the human genome.
    • Identify three health-related SNPs of personal interest and use the UCSC Genome Browser to define their precise chromosomal locations and determine whether they lie within a gene or are intergenic.
    • Establish a list of all genome-wide association studies correlated with a particular health-related SNP.
    • Predict which model organism would be most appropriate for conducting further research on a human disease.
  • How Silly Putty® is like bone

    What do Bone and Silly Putty® have in Common?: A Lesson on Bone Viscoelasticity

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to explain how the anatomical structure of long bones relates to their function.
    • Students will be able to define viscoelasticity, hysteresis, anisotropy, stiffness, strength, ductility, and toughness.
    • Students will be able to identify the elastic and plastic regions of a stress-strain curve. They will be able to correlate each phase of the stress-strain curve with physical changes to bone.
    • Students will be able to predict how a bone would respond to changes in the magnitude of an applied force, and to variations in the speed or angle at which a force is applied.
    • Students will be able to determine the reason(s) why bone injuries occur more frequently during athletic events than during normal everyday use.
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • Science press release cartoon.  Cartoon of a newspaper with the headline “Extra Extra! Cell Biology Makes Headlines!”

    Teaching students to read, interpret, and write about scientific research: A press release assignment in a large, lower...

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • interpret the main conclusions and their supporting evidence in a primary research article.
    • concisely communicate the significance of scientific findings to an educated nonspecialist audience.
    • identify the components of a primary research article and the components of the "inverted pyramid" press release structure.
    • identify the central figure in a primary research paper and describe its key finding.
    • demonstrate an understanding of intellectual property by giving appropriate credit to other people's original work.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • “DNA Extraction Flowchart.” Hand-drawn flowchart of protocol for extracting DNA from bacteria cells.
  • “Quantifying variation in biodiversity” Groundhogs (Marmota monax) with conspicuous variation awaiting measurements.

    Teaching Biodiversity with Museum Specimens in an Inquiry-Based Lab

    Learning Objectives
    Students completing this lab module will:
    • Learn how to appropriately handle and measure museum specimens.
    • Develop the necessary statistical skills to analyze museum specimen data.
    • Become familiar with how to search an online museum database and integrate supplemental data with their own dataset.
    • Strengthen scientific communication skills by presenting research to their peers.
    • Demonstrate ability to investigate scientific questions and address obstacles that occur during data collection and integration.
    • Increase proficiency in managing and using large datasets for scientific research.
    • Make connections between natural history knowledge and morphology of organisms in developing and testing hypotheses.
  • 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
  • Results formula questions. Shows the five questions that comprise the formula for writing a scientific Results section.
  • Two cells stained

    Bad Cell Reception? Using a cell part activity to help students appreciate cell biology, with an improved data plan and...

    Learning Objectives
    • Identify cell parts and explain their function
    • Explain how defects in a cell part can result in human disease
    • Generate thought-provoking questions that expand upon existing knowledge
    • Create a hypothesis and plan an experiment to answer a cell part question
    • Find and reference relevant cell biology journal articles