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Celeste A. Leander
Department of Biology & Zoology
The University of British Columbia
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.

The Last Spruce Grove: Old Growth, New Conflict

This case study follows a drama that unfolded around a stand of Sitka spruce trees (Picea sitchensis) on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The stand held significant historical and cultural significance, particularly to the local first-nations band, but grew on privately-held land. The stage was thus set for confrontation when the landowners expressed their interest in harvesting the valuable lumber. Students are introduced to differing concepts of "old growth" before determining stake-holders in this true story. They hear real concerns presented by many of those affected in a mock town-hall meeting. Students discuss consequences to disrupting an intact stand of old growth forest, including those to the neighboring waterways and to several rare species. Finally, students work in small groups to predict a successional pathway when a secondary disruption such as logging occurs. Originally developed for a first-year science course as part of the biology unit focusing on ecology, the case can also be used in a general biology course with an ecology or conservation curriculum, or in an undergraduate ecology course.

Those Old Kentucky Blues: An Interrupted Case Study

This interrupted case study begins with the construction of a pedigree following an initial encounter with a clan of “blue people.” After constructing a pedigree, students decide whether the condition (methemoglobinemia) is a heritable trait. Students are then exposed to a different perspective of this condition and have to re-evaluate the inheritance pattern. This case study was written for a first year honors course in general biology. It could be modified for most general science majors’ biology, genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology courses.