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Pamela Kalas
The University of British Columbia
Departments of Zoology and Botany
The University of British Columbia
Genetics and a Transcontinental Romance 

Annika is a PhD student from Sweden who spends two years in the Solomon Islands to complete her fieldwork. During her stay in the South Pacific she experiences a few surprises related to the hair color not only of the locals, but also of her own baby girl. Throughout this case study, which integrates classical genetics, population genetics and introductory genomics, students investigate different aspects of the "blond hair" phenotype. They start by exploring its possible origins as well as reasons for its geographic distribution, and then examine its somewhat surprising inheritance using both classical genetics and genome sequencing data. Finally, students use allele and genotype frequency data from the literature to evaluate whether there are mating preferences based on hair color in the Melanesian population. This case is based on the finding that Melanesian people have a unique mutant allele of the TYRP1 gene, which is responsible for their relatively frequent blond hair. Three different versions of Part III allow instructors to tailor the case to the level of their students.

One Whale or Two or … ? : The Speciation of Orca Whales

This case study focuses on the intersection of defining a scientific species and defining a legal species. The compelling story of Lolita, an orca whale in captivity, is used to highlight the legal significance of species declaration. Students will work through scientific species definitions and data on Orca whales before deciding if Orca whales should be considered as one or several species. After an introduction to Lolita and a mock town hall meeting, students are thrown into the real life situation of contemplating the fate of an Orca in captivity that suddenly has protected legal status. This case was developed for use in a first-year biology course focusing on ecology, genetics, and evolution. It also could be used in upper or lower division courses on ecology, evolution, or conservation.