Materials Contributed through SERC-hosted Projects
Constructing Phylogenetic Trees: The Whippo Story part of Merlot Biology Pedagogic Collection:Interactive Lectures:Examples
An interactive lecture in which students are presented with three sets of data from which they draw phylogenetic trees. These trees can then be collected and projected in class. The data include habitat and feeding behavior, skeletons, and DNA sequences. This allows students to see that biological theories must change as new data is discovered. It also forces students to explore which attributes of an organism are the most important in determining relatedness.
Human Demographics part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Mathematical and Statistical Models:Mathematical and Statistical Models Examples
In this biology simulation students explore factors that change human population growth including age at which women begin to bear children, fertility rate and death rate. Simulations are provided for seven countries including the USA, China, Egypt, Germany, Italy, India and Mexico. There are also accompanying questions that walk students through some interesting scenarios.
Genetic Drift part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Mathematical and Statistical Models:Mathematical and Statistical Models Examples
In this biology simulation, students use a mathematical simulation of genetic drift to answer questions about the factors that influence this evolutionary process. Students run a series of simulations varying allele frequency and population size and then analyze their data and propose a model to explain their results. A second set of simulations is performed with natural selection added to the simulation.
Evolution, Natural Selection and Speciation part of Merlot Biology Pedagogic Collection:Conceptual Models:Examples
In this out of class tutorial, students explore several examples of natural selection and speciation. Each example contains interactive simulations that force students to apply concepts to solve problems. Additional questions give students formative assessment and allow the students to see if they need to repeat any units.
Translation simulation part of Merlot Biology Pedagogic Collection:Conceptual Models:Examples
This module introduces students to the basics behind translation of a messenger RNA sequence into protein. Students learn about reading frames, ribosomes, mRNA, tRNA, codons and anticodons. In addition to text and movies, there are interactive shockwave animations that allow students to move ribosomes and tRNAs to perform translation. Both formative and summative assessment are also included.
What Determines Gender in Humans? part of Merlot Biology Pedagogic Collection:Interactive Lectures:Examples
In this activity students examine karyotypes from five individuals to try to identify which chromosomes determine gender in humans. By close inspection, they should notice that the number of X chromosomes does not determine gender, but that the presence or absence of a Y chromosome does. In addition, having one extra or one missing chromosome can lead to birth defects and mental retardation. Finally, the mechanism by which extra or missing chromosomes can occur is explored, namely non-disjunction. This can be used in a large lecture setting, or as an out of class homework assignment.
Long Term Ecological Resources part of Merlot Biology Pedagogic Collection:Teaching with Data:Examples
In this out of class assignment, students work in groups to analyze ecological data and generate an ecological rule. The data is from the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network which can be accessed through MERLOT. LTER contains annual net primary productivity (ANPP), precipitation and temperature data for 26 different biomes. Students are assigned two biomes to study and generate a rule, such as "increasing precipitation leads to an increase in ANPP". They then examine data from two other sites and see if their rule applies to these biomes as well. The final results are submitted as a powerpoint slide, and several are shown in class.
Protein Evolution part of Merlot Biology Pedagogic Collection:Teaching with Data:Examples
In this activity students explore the evolution of proteins. They first choose or are assigned a protein sequence and find other homologous protein sequences, from orthologs or paralogs. They then align these sequences and superimpose the alignment onto the 3D structure of their protein. Finally they examine the 3D alignment to observe where the conserved residues are found on the structure. They can also speculate on the differences in alignment between orthologs and paralogs.
Phenylketonuira part of Merlot Biology Pedagogic Collection:Teaching with Data:Examples
In this activity, students are assigned different alleles of the gene for phenylalanine hydroxylase to research using OMIM (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man). Loss of this enzyme activity leads to accumulation of phenylalanine and the disease phenylketonuria (PKU). They are then asked to both explain and illustrate how this mutation may cause PKU. The different alleles include point mutations, premature stop codons, frame shifts, deletions and loss of splice sites. By analyzing a specific allele, students are forced to follow the impact of the mutation through the DNA, RNA and protein. This exercise also illustrates that most genes have more than two alleles, in this case 67 have been identified.