Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Lab

Purpose of Course  showclose

This lab course supplements BIO102: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology.  Although we cannot virtually replicate a true lab experience, this “lab” will allow you to become familiar with scientific thinking and techniques, and will enable you to explore some key principles of evolutionary biology and ecology.

The material in this lab supplement directly relates to the material covered in the lecture and reading portion of the course.  While the lecture and reading portion focuses on big-picture concepts, here we will focus more on visual understanding, application, and practical use of your knowledge.  In each unit, you will work through tutorials related to important scientific concepts and then will be asked to think creatively about how your knowledge can be put to practical or experimental use.

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  • Unit 1: A Scientific Understanding  

    You have already done some exercises related to the scientific method in BIO101.  This unit, however, will focus on the scientific method in greater depth, examining its importance within scientific thinking as well as its applications.  Understanding scientific thinking is particularly important for a course focusing on evolution.  Since it was first put forth, the concept of evolution has been received with much hostility from a variety of sources outside of science; to understand why and how the theory of evolution has become near universally accepted within the scientific community, you must have a concrete understanding of the scientific method.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Definition and Concept  
  • 1.2 Applications  
    • Reading: Oklahoma City Community College Biology Labs Online: Professor Dennis Anderson’s “The Scientific Method”

      Link: Oklahoma City Community College Biology Labs Online: Professor Dennis Anderson’s “The Scientific Method” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on and read through the five examples (Car, Disease Detective, Forensics, Yeast, Frog) of how the scientific method has been or can be used.  Please note that the correct link for the frog exercise is the following: Hartwick College: Professor Sessions’ “Deformed Amphibian Research” (HTML); click on choice 2 (“find out for myself”) to read about this research.  Finally, click on “Pseudoscience” and choose one of the examples given in order to get a sense of how non-science is often presented in a scientific manner.
       
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    • Assessment: Hartnell College: Dr. Katherine Harris’s Scientific Method Tutorial and Quiz

      Link: Hartnell College: Dr.  Katherine Harris’s Scientific Method Tutorial and Quiz (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Complete this assessment once you have finished the above-assigned resources in Unit 1.  Read through this page of tutorial on the scientific method to learn more about the terms used to describe aspects of experimental design.  Then click on number three at the bottom of the page, “The Scientific Method Quiz,” to test your understanding of the process and terms.
       
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  • Unit 2: Genetics, Heredity, and Inheritance  

    In this section, you will have an opportunity to put your understanding of Mendelian genetics and inheritance to use by engaging in virtual experiments and problem-solving exercises.  These exercises will not only provide you with an opportunity to test your skills but will give you a better sense of how our knowledge of inheritance patterns is used to answer current biological questions.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Types of Inheritance – Tutorial and Review  
  • 2.2 Genetics in the “Lab”  
    • Interactive Lab: Pearson Education: Theresa Holtzclaw’s “Genetics of Organisms”

      Links: Pearson Education: Theresa Holtzclaw’s “Genetics of Organisms” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Although the initial illustrations may look more kid-friendly than college-level, this is an excellent introductory exercise that will not only ask you important questions but will also introduce you to lab-work and techniques involved in real genetics research.  Go through all of the steps of this interactive exercise, which will allow you to learn about experimental procedures (including sexing fruit flies) and statistical analyses while also testing your understanding of autosomal and sex-linked inheritance.
       
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  • 2.3 Genetics “Experiments”  
    • Web Media: MIT: StarGenetics: “User Manual,” “Mendelian Genetics Virtual Lab,” and “Sample Exercises”

      Link: MIT: StarGenetics: “User Manual,” (HTML) “Mendelian Genetics Virtual Lab,” (HTML, Java) and “Sample Exercises” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the User Manual and download the StarGenetics application (this will require Java).  Browse the sample exercises and choose an exercise to work on.  There are no answer keys for these exercises, but they will allow you to test your own understanding of inheritance across generations and will give you the license to experiment with your own choice of experimental crosses.  If you’d like some guidelines for working through one of these exercises, please go to “Fruit Fly Exercise 2, Level One” on the “Sample Exercises” page linked above, and check your work against The Saylor Foundation’s “BIO102 Lab Answer Key.” (PDF)
       
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  • Unit 3: Natural Selection  

    The lecture portion of this course will have taught you a great deal about Darwin’s theory, the support it has garnered over time, and the kinds of selection and selective pressures that have been observed in nature.  This unit will let you examine the process of natural selection in a more hands-on fashion, by working with simulations and models and by learning about current scientific research that makes use of evolutionary understanding. 

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Darwin’s Theory and Current Understandings  
    • Interactive Lab: Pearson Education: Scott Freeman and Jon Herron’s Evolutionary Analysis: “Darwinian Natural Selection”

      Link: Pearson Education: Scott Freeman and Jon Herron’s Evolutionary Analysis: “Darwinian Natural Selection” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: First, click on the left-hand link labeled “Activities” and click on the EvoDots simulation.  Open and read the EvoDots tutorial (which will explain how the otherwise-cryptic simulation works), then download the EvoDots software. Run simulations for at least three generations, and run them for at least two of the three natural selection criteria (“size,” “speed,” and “visibility”).  Note that although the program controls the type of variation, you control the means of selection, as your swiftness and rapacity with your cursor will simulate the selection pressure of a predator.
                 
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    • Assessment: Pearson Education: Scott Freeman and Jon Herron’s Evolutionary Analysis: “Darwinian Natural Selection”

      Link: Pearson Education: Scott Freeman and Jon Herron’s Evolutionary Analysis: “Darwinian Natural Selection” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Click on the left-hand link labeled “Chapter Study Questions.”  Answer all questions, even if they do not refer directly to material covered in this course or lab.  Make sure that you write something in each of the short-answer boxes (only then will you be able to view the answer key).  When you are done, click on “submit answers for grading” to assess your answers and see the answer key.
                 
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  • 3.2 Current Evolutionary Research  
  • 3.2.1 Natural Selection  
    • Interactive Lab: McGraw Hill: Dr. George Johnson’s The Living World Virtual Labs: “Why Do Tropical Songbirds Lay Fewer Eggs?”

      Link: McGraw Hill: Dr.  George Johnson’s The Living World Virtual Labs: “Why Do Tropical Songbirds Lay Fewer Eggs?” (HTML, PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please note that you will have to enable pop-ups from this web page in order to open the links.  First, click on the tab “explore the issue being investigated” and read the page in its entirety.  Next, click on the tab for the original research paper; you may choose whether or not to read the entire paper, but you must read the abstract (one paragraph).  If you do not read the entire paper, click on “gain an overview of the experiment” to read about the experimental methods and results.  Finally, click on “run a virtual experiment exploring the original paper”; although some of the “work” of this experiment is done for you, you will still have the opportunity to make your own observations and choose interpretations of the data.
       
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  • 3.2.2 The Intersection of Natural and Sexual Selection  
    • Interactive Lab: McGraw Hill: Dr. George Johnson’s The Living World Virtual Labs: “Catching Evolution in Action”

      Link: McGraw Hill: Dr.  George Johnson’s The Living World Virtual Labs: “Catching Evolution in Action” (HTML, PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please note that you will have to enable pop-ups from this web page in order to open the links.  First, click on the tab “explore the issue being investigated” and read the page in its entirety.  Next, click on the tab for the original research paper; you may choose whether or not to read the entire paper, but you must read the introduction (three paragraphs).  If you do not read the entire paper, click on “gain an overview of the experiment” to read about the experimental methods and results.  Finally, click on “run a virtual experiment exploring the original paper”; although some of the “work” of this experiment is done for you, you will still have the opportunity to make your own observations and choose interpretations of the data.
       
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    • Interactive Lab: PBS’s Evolution: “Sex and the Single Guppy”

      Link: PBS’s Evolution: “Sex and the Single Guppy” (Shockwave)
       
      Instructions: Since you will have already read about John Endler’s research, you may choose to skip the introduction to this interactive exercise and click on the lower right-hand link to the “simulation.”  Here you will be able to create your own model environment, choosing the degree of predation pressure and the initial numbers of brightly colored guppies, to determine how this population will change over generations.  If you wish, you can also click on the lower-left-hand “Guppy Gallery” to see the wide natural color variation in guppies of this species along with their natural predators and habitats.
       
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  • Unit 4: Evolution of Populations  

    Now that you have had an opportunity to see simulations of natural selection, you will be able to delve deeper into the topic by examining the ways in which alleles and allele frequencies, along with population sizes, are affected by various selection pressures.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Interactive Lab: McGraw Hill’s Virtual Labs: “Natural Selection”

      Link: McGraw Hill’s Virtual Labs: “Natural Selection” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: This simulator will permit you to alter allele frequencies and observe their change over many generations under various environmental conditions.  Read the introduction and instructions on the left side of the page (scroll down to read all).  Run the simulator once using the pre-set options for environment and allele frequency; then run the simulator three more times with different environments and/or allele frequencies of your choice.  Before beginning the simulations, look over the questions in the Journal tab at the bottom of the screen; then choose your simulations with those questions in mind.
       
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  • Unit 5: Speciation  

    This unit will cover the topic of speciation in more depth than the lecture portion of your course, detailing specific examples of speciation and researchers’ efforts to identify how this speciation occurred.  It will also provide you with opportunities to test your own understanding of the process and put forth your own most-likely hypotheses.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Interactive Lab: University of Wisconsin’s Interactive Lessons in Biology: “Species and Speciation”

      Link:  University of Wisconsin’s Interactive Lessons in Biology: “Species and Speciation” (HTML, Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Go through each of these three topics (discovering species, patterns of speciation, and the importance of being species), answering questions and making use of the interactive tools.  Please note that to move through pages within a topic, you must use the small arrows within the shaded screen, while to move from one topic to the next, you must use the red-brown arrows on the lower right outside the shaded area.
       
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  • Unit 6: Phylogeny and Taxonomy  

    Identifying organisms’ evolutionary relationships is a critical part of biology; it helps researchers understand species’ developmental and ecological connections to one another.  But there is a science to taxonomy and phylogeny, and the methods through which organisms have been identified and are organized continue to change.  In this unit, you will be able to try your hand at using and constructing cladograms and phylogenies.

    Unit 6 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 6 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • Unit 7: Ecology and Ecosystems  

    The interactions between organisms and their environments is an area of considerable current research both for researchers in basic biology (studying the subject in order to increase the field of knowledge) and those in applied biology (studying the subject with a particular practical purpose in mind); our changing climate, human-altered habitats, and introductions of invasive species have made ecosystems and their ecology even more variable than ever before.  In this unit, you will be able to examine online models and simulations that describe and examine the effects of changes in predators, prey, and habitat on populations and communities.

    Unit 7 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 7 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 7.1 Ecological Interactions  
  • 7.2 The Flow of Matter  
    • Web Media: The Habitable Planet’s “Carbon Lab”

      Link: The Habitable Planet’s “Carbon Lab” (HTML, Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Read the overview for this activity, and then read through each of the Lesson’s steps and questions before beginning any simulations.  When you are ready to begin a simulation, click the “open simulator” tab in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen.  Take notes on your simulations such that you can answer the questions asked in the introductions.  (Note: you do not have to calculate precise figures, but you should have a sense of positive and negative trends).
       
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  • 7.3 The Flow of Energy  
    • Activity: The Gould League’s “Food Webs”

      Link: The Gould League’s “Food Webs” (HTML and Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Although this may appear to be oriented towards children, these activities, which involve placing organisms in their appropriate place within a food-web—with or without a “hint” about the organism’s diet—are actually quite challenging and end with an opportunity to view a more complex food web of all of the organisms described.
       
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    • Interactive Lab: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs: “Ecosystems, Organisms, and Trophic Levels”

      Link: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs “Ecosystems, Organisms, and Trophic Levels” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Read through the introduction and instructions on the left-hand side of the page before beginning the activity.  You must read through all five ecosystems, but you may choose which organisms in each ecosystem to click on and answer questions about.  This activity will allow you to investigate biomes in more detail and also test your knowledge of each ecosystem’s inhabitants and trophic relationships.
       
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    • Web Media: University of Michigan: The Flow of Energy: Higher Trophic Levels

      Link: University of Michigan: The Flow of Energy: Higher Trophic Levels (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this page in its entirety; it will describe for you in more detail the processes through which energy travels in ecosystems and food webs and the influence of this energy flow on trophic relationships.
       
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  • 7.4 Connecting Energy and Ecosystems  
    • Web Media: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs: “Model Ecosystems”

      Link: McGraw Hill: Virtual Labs: “Model Ecosystems” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Read through the introduction and instructions on the left-hand side of the page and then assign organisms to trophic levels for three of the five model ecosystems; at least one of the three ecosystems you choose must be aquatic (either freshwater or marine).
       
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