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Peter J.T. White
Visiting Instructor
pwhite@msu.edu
Lyman Briggs College
Michigan State University
Evolution in Action: The Power of Mutation in E. coli

This case study is based on Dr. Richard Lenski’s ongoing studies of evolution in E. coli. Students are introduced to prokaryotic biology and to Lenski’s studies based on serial broth cultures of E. coli, which have been monitored for genotypic and phenotypic changes for over 25 years. One subculture evolved the ability to use citrate as food source under conditions where it previously could not. Students explore the cell biology, molecular genetics and ecology of this system by engaging in modules that tie into one another using evolution as an overarching theme. The modules can be used in any order across the biology curriculum or can be used to revisit and/or summarize previously learned topics. This integrative approach employs both problem-based learning techniques and directed questions as students engage in the modules. The case study is appropriate for an introductory biology course, an AP or Honor’s high school biology course or an upper level course in evolution. The research phase of problem-based learning is supported by a series of PowerPoint slides that can be downloaded, edited and used according to instructors’ needs.


Joel E. Greengiant Learns About Peas: From Nucleotides to Selection

This case study follows purveyors of peas, Joel E. and Jolene Greengiant, as they learn about the origin, biochemistry, genetics and eventual artificial selection of sweet (wrinkled) peas, all in the context of evolutionary biology. This integrative approach employs both problem-based learning techniques and directed questions as students engage in a series of modules. These modules include a natural history of domestic peas, cell biology of round and wrinkled peas, the Mendelian and molecular genetics of wrinkled peas and the population genetics of round and wrinkled peas. These can be used in any order as dictated by instructional needs. The case study is appropriate for an introductory biology course, an AP or Honor's high school biology course or an upper level course in evolution. Each module would have instructional value in related upper division courses. A key feature of the case study is weaving evolutionary thinking into the biology curriculum.   The research phase of problem-based learning is supported by a series of slides and simulations that can be downloaded, edited and used according to instructors' needs.


The Evolution of Color Vision in Monkeys: From Nucleotides to Ecology

This case study examines the evolution color vision in Old World and New World monkeys from multiple biological perspectives. This integrative approach employs both problem-based learning techniques and directed questions as students move through a series of modules that takes them from nucleotides through alternative alleles to protein function to ecology and phylogenetics. The modules (ecology, cell biology/protein function, genetics and phylogenetics) can to be used in any order as dictated by course objectives and structure. The case study is appropriate for a basic undergraduate biology course or for genetics, ecology and cell biology upper level courses. A key feature of the case study is weaving evolutionary thinking into the biology curriculum. The research phase of problem-based learning is supported by a series of slides and simulations that can be downloaded from the authors' site where they are stored, edited, and used according to instructors' needs.