Climate Instability and Disease

Clarissa Dirks, The Evergreen State College

Summary

This module is directed at enhancing students' knowledge about the ways in which humans are impacting the spread of disease globally and locally through pollution, global warming, population growth and globalization, and habitat destruction.

Teaching utilizes information from a variety of disciplines including ecology, chemistry, biology, virology, and cell biology to introduce students to a breadth of interlinked topics as they relate to infectious disease. The module is designed to teach students information at different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy while providing them practice at using scientific skills such as reading primary literature, analyzing data, and designing experiments. Supporting materials include PowerPoint lectures, related primary literature papers, and pre and post-assessments to measure student learning of science process skills.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to describe and provide an example of the four main ways in which humans are impacting the spread of disease globally and locally through pollution, global warming, population growth and globalization, and habitat destruction.

Students will be able to compare and contrast current and past events in relationship to the impact of climate instability and disease.

Students will be able to design experiments to test how harmful algal blooms impact aquatic organisms, nitrification effects marine algal growth, temperature impacts coral reefs, acidity impacts coral reefs, temperature effects fungal growth, temperature effects annual tick populations, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) cause immune suppression.

Students will be able to explain how papillomaviruses cause cancer.

Students will know where PCB contamination in the environment came from and explain how it leads to immune suppression in marine mammals.

Students will be able to apply their knowledge of the types of infectious diseases and global climate change to new situations, and use this information to make predictions about future related events.

Students will be able to identify and classify the following: arboviruses, malaria (protist), marine algae (cellular photosynthetic; specific names such as Pseudonitzschia), dinoflagellates, papillomaviruses, and tick-borne encephalitis virus, Lyme disease.

Students will be able to analyze and interpret data represented in graphs, cladigrams and basic molecular techniques, such as gel electrophoresis.

Context for Use

The module was designed to introduce students to a variety of biological processes of infectious disease that are connected through human activities and climate instability. It serves to illustrate how human activities and climate instability impacts the spread of disease both locally and globally. The module can be used at the introductory or advanced level and may be adjusted to accommodate a teaching unit lasting two days to two weeks. It was purposefully designed to be very flexible so that any given topic can be the focus of the unit, thereby allowing the module to be used in many life science courses.

Possible Use in Other Courses: microbiology, introductory or advanced biology, virology, ecology, toxicology, and chemistry.

Description and Teaching Materials

During the first class activity, the instructor should facilitate student discussions and not dominate them.

Students should be given a brief overview on how to read primary literature papers before they are assigned to read them. They should be instructed on the main components of a primary literature paper, where one would find specific information in the papers, and how primary literature differs from review articles or other kinds of presentation of the information. The instructor can measure their understanding with the quick pre and post-test provided.

Instructors should explain the graphs, maps, and molecular techniques presented in the primary literature. Students often do not know how to read these kinds of displays of information and therefore struggle with the concepts presented.

Students need formal training in experimental design. The rubric provided with this module should be provided to and discussed with the students. The students should be given more than one opportunity at practicing this skill prior to any summative assessments requiring them to have mastered this skill.

Instructors should be sure to align their formative and summative assessments with their learning outcomes. Students should be given practice at working at the designated Bloom's Taxonomy rankings for each learning outcome. They should also be tested at these levels.

If one is showing pictures of scientists or other professionals, the examples should draw from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, thereby showing underrepresented students that they have role models.

A. In class small group reading of news articles and subsequent jigsaw group share prior to formal lecture.
  • The instructor will use very short recent news article about the impact of:
    • global warming on number of species globally;
    • the receding polar ice cap on polar bear populations;
    • harmful algal blooms and marine organisms;
    • an increase in North Sea temperatures and fish populations;
    • rising sea temperatures and an increase of ocean acidity on coral reefs;
    • climate change on food and firewood resources in developing countries;
    • global warming on fungal infections in amphibians;
    • global warming on the increased numbers of ticks carrying a deadly encephalitis virus; and,
    • climate change on the spread of malaria and arboviruses (Dengue, West Nile, Yellow Fever).
Then let groups of three to four students read the articles and discuss them. The groups will then summarize their article to the entire class. The instructor will facilitate a class discussion about the collective information from all of the readings.
  • The instructor will give a formal presentation (PowerPoint)about the big picture of global instability and disease, focusing on how humans impact the spread of disease by altering the environment. The presentation will first be broad and then focus on how the topics relate to the Pacific Northwest.
B. Prior to class, students will be assigned primary literature to read that relates to the lecture. The readings and lectures will come in the following order:
  1. Global climate instability and the spread of infectious disease (local topics about the spread of West Nile Virus across the U.S. to Washington State).
  2. The impact of global warming and fertilizer pollution on harmful algal blooms (local topics about harmful algal blooms in the Puget Sound area and the impact on shellfish poisoning and wildlife health).
  3. PCB pollution and immune suppression of marine mammals (local topics include marine mammals along the West coast of the U.S., inclusive of Washington State).
  4. The link between global warming and pollution and the trigger of papilloma viruses in marine mammals (local analogous topics include the effects of toxic waste dumping in the Pacific Northwest oceans, leading to the demise of orca populations and the potential for these kinds of problems to arise).
During lectures, the instructor will pose questions (clickers perhaps) where students can gauge their understanding of the material. Students may pair-share to discuss their answers and perhaps change their responses.

PowerPoint Lecture (PowerPoint 7.7MB Oct27 11)
Climate Instability and Disease Primary Literature Pre and Post Test (Microsoft Word 25kB Oct27 11)
Rubric for Scientific Writing and Experimental Design (Microsoft Word 58kB Oct27 11)

Teaching Notes and Tips

During the first class activity, the instructor should facilitate student discussions and not dominate them.

Instructors should be sure to align their formative and summative assessments with their learning outcomes. Students should be given practice at working at the designated Bloom's Taxonomy rankings for each learning outcome. They should also be tested at these levels.

If one is showing pictures of scientists or other professionals, the examples should draw from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, thereby showing underrepresented students that they have role models.

General Themes of Scientific Teaching

Active Learning
Activities include: group work, pair-shares, class discussions, and individual work requiring them to engage with the material. (quizzes, clicker questions)
Assessment
Formative and summative assessments will be aligned with the learning goals. Students will be given practice at mastering the material at the different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy indicated in the learning outcomes.
Diversity
This learning module caters to a diversity of learning styles. The in-class work with peers assists those who like group work. Lectures and student summary presentations help auditory learners. The assigned reading activities and lecture presentations are geared towards visual learners.

Assessment

  1. In class small group reading of news articles will be formatively assessed by student summaries, class discussion, and individual summary cards submitted at the end of class.
  2. Prior to students reading the assigned primary literature papers, a primary literature understanding quiz should be administered. This pre-test will measure their understanding of the different components of a primary literature paper and other types of scientific literature.
  3. During lectures, the instructor will pose questions (clickers perhaps) where students can gauge their understanding of the material. Students may pair-share to discuss their answers and perhaps change their responses. At the end of each class, students will take a short quiz related to each of the assigned readings. This allows the instructor to clarify the information that students found difficult to grasp, but also holds them accountable for the material. The instructor can use these formative assessments to determine which areas need further explanation in the next lecture.
  4. Students will be given at least one homework assignment where they write up a one page experimental design to test something put forward in one of the primary literature papers or a concept put forward in lecture (see above). The instructor will provide an experimental design grading rubric and discuss this with the students in class. This formative assessment will allow the instructor to determine whether students grasp the material and if they understand how to effectively design an experiment.
  5. The summative assessment (exam) questions will be aligned to address the stated learning goals (see above). The questions will be geared towards the different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy indicated by the key underlined words (see above).
  6. After reading all of the primary literature papers, students should be given the same primary literature understanding quiz as a post-test. The pre- and post-test scores should be compared and shared with the students.

References and Resources

  • PowerPoint Lecture (Included with this curriculum in a separate file as an attachment).
Articles for "Science in the News" Opening Session (These short articles should be obtained from recent news reports that discuss topics of how climate instability is negatively impacting life on earth. A variety of articles that touch on various topics should be selected so that students can make the connection to climate instability.)
  • Review Articles and Assigned Primary Literature Papers:
    • Assaf Anyamba, Jean-Paul Chretien, Jennifer Small, Compton J Tucker, and Kenneth J Linthicum. "Developing global climate anomalies suggest potential disease risks for 2006 - 2007." International Journal of Health Geographics 2006, 5:60
    • Robert W. Sutherst. "Global Change and Human Vulnerability to Vector-Borne Diseases." Clinical Microbiology Reviews. Jan. 2004, p. 136-173 Vol. 17, No. 1
    • Annabel Rector, Gregory D. Bossart, Shin-Je Ghim, John P. Sundberg, A. Bennett Jenson, and Marc Van Ranst. "Characterization of a Novel Close-to-Root Papillomavirus from a Florida Manatee by Using Multiply Primed Rolling-Circle Amplification: Trichechus manatus latirostris Papillomavirus Type." Journal of Virology, Nov. 2004, p. 12698-12702 Vol. 78, No. 22.
    • Florent E. Angly, et. al. The Marine Viromes of Four Oceanic Regions. PLOS Biology, November 2006, Volume 4, Issue 2121-11.
    • Patricia E. Ganey and Steven A. Boyd. "An Approach to Evaluation of the Effect of Bioremediation on Biological Activity of Environmental Contaminants: Dechlorination of Polychlorinated Biphenyls." Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 113, No. 2, February 2005.
    • C. P. D. Brussaard et. al. "Isolation and Phylogenetic Analysis of Novel Viruses Infecting the Phytoplankton Phaeocystis globosa (Prymnesiophyceae)." Applied and Environmental Microbiology. June 2004, p. 3700-3705 Vol. 70, No. 6.
    • Rebecca A. Woodruff, et. al. "Molecular Identification of a Papilloma Virus from Cutaneous Lesions of Captive and Free-ranging Florida Manatees." Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 41(2), 2005, pp. 437-441.
    • Scott Goetz, et al. "Crisis in Earth Observation." Science 315, 1767 (2007).
    • BA Werness, et al. "Association of human papillomavirus types 16 and 18 E6 proteins with p53." Science 248, 76 (1990).
  • Rubric for Scientific Writing and Experimental Design
  • Pre- and Post-Test for understanding of primary literature

Evergreen State College