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Erica F. Kosal
Department of Biology
North Carolina State University
Chimpanzee Droppings Lead Scientists to Evolutionary Discovery 

This interrupted case study focuses on the research of Dr. Beatrice Hahn, who investigates DNA sequences in chimpanzee droppings in order to explore the origins of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Students first consider the types of data that can be gained through collecting chimpanzee feces and studying the behavior of these animals. Students then apply this information to learn more about microevolution when they compare DNA sequences. Finally, students learn about ELISA tests and consider the role of basic and applied science. This case study is appropriate for an introductory biology course for non-majors or majors.

Peek-a-Bamboo!: Embryonic Development and Toxins

This case study was written for an introductory course for biology majors who are first learning about embryonic development. The case is composed of several parts and involves a storyline about a team of researchers who find frogs and eggs in bamboo plants during a field study. Students consider what these observations mean, learn basics about the stages of animal embryonic development, and make connections to phylogeny and natural selection. Students then apply their understanding of animal embryonic stage development to the chemical atrazine in the environment by examining data from several experiments. As a concluding activity students write a letter to an agency or newspaper of their choosing stating their opinion surrounding the use of atrazine in the environment. The case proceeds in a progressive disclosure format and involves a combination of class discussion, small group work, and homework. Because the case focuses on very basic animal embryonic development, it would also be a great start to a developmental biology course or an embryology course.

The Fish Kill Mystery 

In this case study, students speculate on what may have caused a major fish kill in an estuary in North Carolina. In the process, they explore how land runoff and excess nutrients affect aquatic communities, and learn about the complex life cycle of the dinoflagellate Pfiesteria. The case is appropriate for an introductory environmental science course, a general biology course that covers ecology, or a general zoology course.