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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)
  • 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
  • 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.