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The inclusion of nonscientists in biological research projects has become a useful mechanism for capturing long-term ecological data while exposing students firsthand to science and the scientific method. I have combined several existing citizen-science-based research efforts focused on Danaus plexippus, the monarch butterfly, into a comprehensive yet simple ecological lab activity that is appropriate for all ages and biological backgrounds.
Biological research entails myriad techniques and considerations for proper experimental design and data collection. The duality of field-based research techniques and laboratory protocols makes introducing this topic to high school and undergraduate college students a challenge. Two invertebrate models that serve as wonderful tools to support an inquiry process to balance techniques in the field and in the laboratory are terrestrial isopods and water bears. Both are easy to collect and rear, are relatively little-known species, and offer the chance for students to work directly with aspects of natural history, ecology, and biology. The 10-step process presented here offers an outline to follow in guiding students through a research cycle in the course of a semester (16 weeks).
Four inquiry-based laboratories are described that introduce students to the properties of human brain cells. These experiments require no technical equipment, are inexpensive and safe, and introduce students to genuine research using neuropsychological investigations as a means of studying the properties of brain cells. Students design and conduct an experiment using optical illusions to explore the activity and response of specific nerve cells of the visual system. Some of the successes and pitfalls of such an activity are discussed.
Students observe a tree bud from late winter until it sprouts. They learn to use dichotomous keys to identify their tree. The activity is inquiry-based; students predict when their bud will open and what it will become. Student drawings, quotes, and data are included to exemplify the process. The activity can be used to teach plant vocabulary and differentiation as well. It can be adapted to any grade level — from elementary school to college.
Advanced Placement Biology Lab 11 has used pillbugs as the model organism and choice chambers so that they can travel between two environments. I used cabbage white butterflies as the model organism. Each student was given their own larva and observed metamorphosis, choice behaviors of the larva, and mating behaviors of adult butterflies.
This article presents a classroom activity for grades 4 to 6 based on real research from the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Research Partnership. Students learn how scientists use sound to observe and monitor marine environments. The ecological acoustic monitoring tool is used to help students practice observation skills and understand biological concepts such as sound, coral reef ecosystems, scientific method, field research, and environmental monitoring, as well as marine species' behavior. Instructions, background information, materials, and activity discussion are provided.
I describe the use of long-term data-collection projects for introductory biology or environmental science students at both the high school and the college nonmajors level. I provide specific examples of projects and information on guiding students as they learn to gather, organize, and describe data sets.
We present a tutorial for Cn3D, a molecular visualization program that allows students to see the tertiary structure of a protein and compare it with the primary structure of the same protein (Sayers et al., 2009). Students can also use the program to visualize two major evolutionary mechanisms: duplication and divergence, and exon shuffling.