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  • 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
  • Ecosystem

    Using Pathway Maps to Link Concepts, Peer Review, Primary Literature Searches and Data Assessment in Large Enrollment...

    Learning Objectives
    • Define basic concepts and terminology of Ecosystem Ecology
    • Link biological processes that affect each other
    • Evaluate whether the link causes a positive, negative, or neutral effect
    • Find primary literature
    • Identify data that correctly supports or refutes an hypothesis
  • Madhumathi S V (2013) This image is license under a Creative Commons Atrribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

    Priority Setting in Public Health: A lesson in ethics and hard choices

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this unit, students will be able to:
    • Define the central distinction between public health and medicine
    • Apply objectives of public health and individual medical care in a particular situation to identify potential areas of conflict in priority setting
    • Apply moral theories of utilitarianism and deontology to a particular situation to identify the course of action proponents of each theory would see as morally justified
    • Identify the range of morally justifiable actions that might be available to a health professional in a particular setting
    • Choose from among a range of possible actions in a particular health situation and articulate the ethical principles that would justify that choice.
  • “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.
  • 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.
  • Students present their posters to classmates and instructors during a poster fair.

    Discovery Poster Project

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • identify and learn about a scientific research discovery of interest to them using popular press articles and the primary literature
    • find a group on campus doing research that aligns with their interests and communicate with the faculty leader of that group
    • create and present a poster that synthesizes their knowledge of the research beyond the discovery
  • 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
  • blind cave fish
  • Students participating in the peer review process. Practicing the writing of scientific manuscripts prepares students to understand and engage in the primary literature they encounter.
  • Human karyotype

    Homologous chromosomes? Exploring human sex chromosomes, sex determination and sex reversal using bioinformatics...

    Learning Objectives
    Students successfully completing this lesson will:
    • Practice navigating an online bioinformatics resource and identify evidence relevant to solving investigation questions
    • Contrast the array of genes expected on homologous autosomal chromosomes pairs with the array of genes expected on sex chromosome pairs
    • Use bioinformatics evidence to defend the definition of homologous chromosomes
    • Define chromosomal sex and defend the definition using experimental data
    • Investigate the genetic basis of human chromosomal sex determination
    • Identify at least two genetic mutations can lead to sex reversal
  • A crossbill feeds on a pinecone

    Coevolution or not? Crossbills, squirrels and pinecones

    Learning Objectives
    1. Define coevolution.
    2. Identify types of evidence that would help determine whether two species are currently in a coevolutionary relationship.
    3. Interpret graphs.
    4. Evaluate evidence about whether two species are coevolving and use evidence to make a scientific argument.
    5. Describe what evidence of a coevolutionary relationship might look like.
    6. Distinguish between coadaptation and coevolution.
  • Wikipedia in the Science Classroom. In this primary image, students are sharing their Wikipedia article evaluations and evaluation process with their peers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Photograph by Marilyn Chung, The Desert Sun
  • Student-generated targeting construct from the construct ribbon parts

    Make It Stick: Teaching Gene Targeting with Ribbons and Fasteners

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to design targeting constructs.
    • Students will be able to predict changes to the gene locus after homologous recombination.
    • Students will be able to design experiments to answer a biological question (e.g., "Design an experiment to test if the expression of gene X is necessary for limb development").
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Students use plastic Easter eggs and chocolate pieces to simulate the distribution of HIV in T lymphocytes.

    Infectious Chocolate Joy with a Side of Poissonian Statistics: An activity connecting life science students with subtle...

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will define a Poisson distribution.
    • Students will generate a data set on the probability of a T cell being infected with a virus(es).
    • Students will predict the likelihood of one observing the mean value of viruses occurring.
    • Students will evaluate the outcomes of a random process.
    • Students will hypothesize whether a process is Poissonian and design a test for that hypothesis.
    • Students will collect data and create a histogram from their data.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This is a representation of what might happen during peer discussion.

    In-class peer grading of daily quizzes increases feedback opportunities

    Learning Objectives
    Each of these objectives are illustrated with a succinct slide presentation or other supplemental material available ahead of class time through the course administration system. Learners found it particularly helpful to have video clips that remind them of mathematical manipulations available (in the above example objective c). Students understand that foundational objectives tend to be the focus of the quiz (objectives a-d) and that others will be given more time to work on together in class (objectives e-g), but I don't specify this exactly to reduce temptation that 'gamers' take a shortcut that would impact their group work negatively later on. However, the assignment for a focused graded group activity is posted as well, so it is clear what we are working towards; if desired individuals could prepare ahead of the class.
  • Students engaged in building the PCR model

    A Close-Up Look at PCR

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this lesson students will be able to...
    • Describe the role of a primer in PCR
    • Predict sequence and length of PCR product based on primer sequences
    • Recognize that primers are incorporated into the final PCR products and explain why
    • Identify covalent and hydrogen bonds formed and broken during PCR
    • Predict the structure of PCR products after each cycle of the reaction
    • Explain why amplification proceeds exponentially
  • MA plot of RNA-seq data. An MA plot is a visual summary of gene expression data which identifies genes showing differential expression between two treatments.

    Tackling "Big Data" with Biology Undergrads: A Simple RNA-seq Data Analysis Tutorial Using Galaxy

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will locate and download high-throughput sequence data and genome annotation files from publically available data repositories.
    • Students will use Galaxy to create an automated computational workflow that performs sequence quality assessment, trimming, and mapping of RNA-seq data.
    • Students will analyze and interpret the outputs of RNA-seq analysis programs.
    • Students will identify a group of genes that is differentially expressed between treatment and control samples, and interpret the biological significance of this list of differentially expressed genes.
  • Binding pocket diagram The image suggests that by providing appropriate non-covalent interactions at sites A, B and C, students can create a binding pocket selective for the neurotransmitter molecule serotonin.

    Serotonin in the Pocket: Non-covalent interactions and neurotransmitter binding

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will design a binding site for the neurotransmitter serotonin.
    • Students will be able to determine the effect of a change in molecular orientation on the affinity of the molecule for the binding site.
    • Students will be able to determine the effect of a change in molecular charge on the affinity of the molecule for the binding site.
    • Students will be able to better differentiate between hydrogen bond donors and acceptors.
    • Students can use this knowledge to design binding sites for other metabolites.
  • A tuco-tuco in South America (photo credit: Jeremy Hsu)

    Furry with a chance of evolution: Exploring genetic drift with tuco-tucos

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to explain how genetic drift leads to allelic changes over generations.
    • Students will be able to demonstrate that sampling error can affect every generation, which can result in random changes in allelic frequency.
    • Students will be able to explore and evaluate the effect of population size on the strength of genetic drift.
    • Students will be able to analyze quantitative data associated with genetic drift.
  • 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.
  • Teaching epidemiology and principles of infectious disease using popular media and the case of Typhoid Mary

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Describe the reservoirs of infection in humans.
    • Distinguish portals of entry and exit.
    • Describe how each of the following contributes to bacterial virulence: adhesins, extracellular enzymes, toxins, and antiphagocytic factors.
    • Define and distinguish etiology and epidemiology.
    • Describe the five typical stages of infectious disease and depict the stages in graphical form.
    • Contrast contact, vehicle and vector transmission, biological and mechanical vectors and identify the mode of transmission in a given scenario.
    • Differentiate endemic, sporadic, epidemic, and pandemic disease.
    • Distinguish descriptive, analytical, and experimental epidemiology.
    • Compare and contrast social, economic, and cultural factors impacting health care in the early 1900s and today.
  • 3D Print Models: A collection of 3D models printed from online repository files.
  • Students being lead in an active learning exercise.
  • Format of a typical course meeting
  • 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
  • Monarch larvae

    Does it pose a threat? Investigating the impact of Bt corn on monarch butterflies

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Apply genetics concepts to a relevant case study of Bt corn and monarch butterflies
    • Read figures and text from primary literature
    • Identify claims presented in scientific studies
    • Evaluate data presented in scientific studies
    • Critically reason using data
    • Evaluate the consequences of GM technology on non-target organisms
    • Communicate scientific data orally
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • photo credit John Friedlein. Author (SRB) helps a student troubleshooting RStudio in the workshop session of class.
  • Sliced vegan no-knead whole what bread loaf” by is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
  • 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.
  • This is the question when working with pH and pKa. This is original artwork by the author and no copyright is violated.

    Taking the Hassle out of Hasselbalch

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    1. Characterize an aqueous environment as acidic or basic.
    2. Explain that pKa is a measure of how easy it is to remove a proton from a molecule.
    3. Predict ionization state of a molecule at a particular pH based on its pKa (qualitative use of the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation).
    4. Calculate the ratio of protonated/unprotonated forms of ionizable groups depending on chemical characteristics and /or environment pH (quantitative use of the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation).
    5. Apply this knowledge in a medical context.
  • 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.
  • DNA

    Why do Some People Inherit a Predisposition to Cancer? A small group activity on cancer genetics

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this activity, we expect students will be able to:
    1. Use family pedigrees and additional genetic information to determine inheritance patterns for hereditary forms of cancer
    2. Explain why a person with or without cancer can pass on a mutant allele to the next generation and how that impacts probability calculations
    3. Distinguish between proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes
  • Using Place-Based Economically Relevant Organisms to Improve Student Understanding of the Roles of Carbon Dioxide,...

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
    • Describe the roles of light energy and carbon dioxide in photosynthetic organisms.
    • Identify the effect of nutrients on the growth of photosynthetic organisms.
    • Describe global cycles in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and how they relate to photosynthetic organisms.
  • Structure of protein ADA2

    Understanding Protein Domains: A Modular Approach

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to compare protein sequences and identify conserved regions and putative domains.
    • Students will be able to obtain, examine, and compare structural models of protein domains.
    • Students will be able to interpret data on protein interactions (in vitro pull-down and in vitro and in vivo functional assays)
    • Students will be able to propose experiments to test protein interactions.
  • Model skeleton

    Plotting Cranial and Spinal Nerve Pathways in a Human Anatomy Lab

    Learning Objectives
    • Identify and describe the functions of cranial and spinal nerves
    • Identify cranial and spinal nerve origination points and what structures they innervate
    • Trace the routes that cranial and spinal nerves take throughout the body
  • 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.
  • Peterson MP, Rosvall KA, Choi J-H, Ziegenfus C, Tang H, Colbourne JK, et al. (2013) Testosterone Affects Neural Gene Expression Differently in Male and Female Juncos: A Role for Hormones in Mediating Sexual Dimorphism and Conflict. PLoS ONE 8(4): e61784. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061784

    Teaching RNAseq at Undergraduate Institutions: A tutorial and R package from the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching

    Learning Objectives
    • From raw RNAseq data, run a basic analysis culminating in a list of differentially expressed genes.
    • Explain and evaluate statistical tests in RNAseq data. Specifically, given the output of a particular test, students should be able to interpret and explain the result.
    • Use the Linux command line to complete specified objectives in an RNAseq workflow.
    • Generate meaningful visualizations of results from new data in R.
    • (In addition, each chapter of this lesson plan contains more specific learning objectives, such as “Students will demonstrate their ability to map reads to a reference.”)