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Thomas Horvath
Associate Professor
Biology Department
SUNY College at Oneonta
A Killer Lake 

In 1986, Lake Nyos, a volcanic lake located in Cameroon, Africa, released a huge amount of carbon dioxide gas, killing over 1,700 people and countless livestock and other animals in the area. This case, intended for use in a limnology or an aquatic biology course, explores that event, introducing students to concepts related to lake formation, thermal stratification, and dissolved gases. Students interpret graphs containing temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity data for the lake, and then synthesize these different types of limnological data to understand what happened.

Cross-Dressing Salmon: Survival of the Sneaky

This "clicker case" about female mimicry in spawning salmon was developed for an introductory-level, non-majors biology course to help address one of the most common misconceptions that students have about natural selection, namely, that only the "strong" survive and reproduce. Female mimicry is an alternative male reproductive strategy. As observed in spawning salmon, some males assume certain female characteristics that enable them to remain close to reproducing females without being viewed as competition by more dominant males. Students learn about concepts of natural selection, including overproduction and differential reproductive success, as well as patterns of natural selection. The case is presented in class via a PowerPoint presentation (~3MB) that is punctuated by multiple-choice questions students answer using personal response systems ("clickers").

Life, The Final Frontier: A Case Study on the Characteristics of Life

Designed for high school and college-level introductory biology courses, the goal of this "clicker case" is to get students to think about what it means for something to be alive by defining the characteristics of living organisms and applying these to living, nonliving, and previously living objects. The case does this within the framework of a fictional scenario in which the President of the United States must decide whether to announce that NASA has discovered extraterrestrial life. However, NASA is not sure how to define their discovery. The case combines the use of student personal response systems (clickers) with case teaching methods and formats. It is presented in class using a series of PowerPoint slides (~1MB) punctuated by questions (called "clicker questions") that students respond to before moving on to the next slide. The case could be adapted and used without these technologies.

Not Necessarily on Purpose: Domestication and Speciation in the Canidae Family

In this “clicker case,” students learn about evolution, speciation, and natural selection as well as interpret phylogenies as they apply to the Canidae family. The case is based on the idea that the domestication of the dog was not likely an intentional event in human history. Rather, the dog as we know it was probably a result of natural selection events. Later intentional selective breeding events formed the many different breeds of dog. The case is designed for an introductory biology course in which personal response systems, or “clickers,” are used.  It consists of a series of PowerPoint slides (~2MB) punctuated by multiple-choice questions that students respond to using their clickers. It could be adapted for use without these technologies.