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Erin Barley
Senior Lecturer
Department of Biological Sciences
Simon Fraser University
A Deadly Passion: Sexual Cannibalism in the Australian Redback Spider

This "clicker case" teaches students about the distinction between proximate and ultimate causes of behavior using the fascinating courtship and mating rituals of the Australian redback spider. The case is presented in class via a PowerPoint presentation (~3MB) punctuated by multiple-choice questions that the students answer using personal response systems, or "clickers." It could be adapted for use without these technologies. Although developed for a general biology class, the case would also be suitable for use in non-majors introductory biology or behavioral ecology courses.

A Tale of Three Lice: A Case Study on Phylogeny, Speciation, and Hominin Evolution

This “clicker case” explores the questions of when hominins lost their body hair and began wearing clothing by examining the surprising phylogeny of human head, body, and pubic lice. Students are led through the scientific process as they are asked to think about hypotheses, predictions, results, and conclusions, and learn about phylogeny, speciation, and hominin evolution. The case is presented class using a set of PowerPoint slides (~1.5MB) that includes multiple-choice questions students answer using personal response systems (“clickers”). It could be adapted for use without these technologies.  Developed for a general biology class focusing on evolution and ecology, the case is also suitable for use in a non-majors introductory biology course.

Speciation and the Threespine Stickleback 

This case study teaches students about allopatric speciation through an investigation of the benthic and limnetic sticklebacks of Paxton Lake, which are among the youngest species on Earth, diverging from each other after the Pleistocene glaciers melted and the Gulf Islands formed. Researchers at the University of British Columbia have carried out a variety of fascinating studies on these hardy little fish. Results from this research (formatted as data sheets included in the teaching notes) are provided to students who design experiments and then compare actual data to investigate why benthic and limnetic sticklebacks seldom interbreed in Paxton Lake. Developed for a first-year biology course for majors organized around the general theme of evolution and the history of life on Earth, this case study is an updated version of another case in the collection, “Something’s Fishy in Paxton Lake” (Sharp, 2001). The current version is especially suited for a flipped classroom in which students prepare for class ahead of time with a reading assignment that also involves the viewing of a video by the case authors that introduces the mechanisms of allopatric speciation.