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Susan Bandoni Muench
Biology Department
SUNY Geneseo
Peanut Butter to the Rescue?: Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods

This case study introduces students to ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs), products that have revolutionized the treatment of undernourished children. Unlike previous therapeutic foods, fortified nut butter, as in this case, can be used to treat children at home rather than at a clinic. Students examine the results of early studies investigating whether these products are comparable to other therapeutic foods in use. Designing studies of home-based treatments is difficult, and researchers had to consider cultural factors. Students evaluate graphical data to determine how well each intervention worked and use metrics for describing undernutrition and Z scores. In addition, students examine more controversial studies of the benefits of using RUTFs in situations where children do not yet suffer from malnutrition. A final assignment addresses the causes of food insecurity and asks whether an aid organization should spend limited funds on RTUFs or on other interventions. This case study was written for courses on global health and nutrition, but could be modified for use in anatomy and physiology, human biology or general biology courses where nutrition is addressed.

The Mystery of the Blue Death: A Case Study in Epidemiology and the History of Science

This historical case study describes the story of John Snow’s discovery of water-borne transmission of cholera in 19th-century London. Designed for use in a Global Health class, the case explores cholera outbreaks and their causes as well as models of disease. In addition, the case provides a framework for discussing the nature of science, particularly non-experimental tests of hypotheses, the cultural context of science, and populational thinking. The case could be used in a variety of other contexts, including courses in microbiology and introductory biology for either majors or non-majors. Because it addresses the nature of science, it is also appropriate for courses in the history, philosophy, or sociology of science.

The Waiting Game: A Case Study on the Behavioral Ecology of Long-Tailed Manakins

In this interrupted case study, students examine the cooperative courtship behavior of long-tailed manakins. Males of the long-tailed form leks, areas in which males display for females in groups. Leks in this species consist of two to 11 males, with two males taking part in a cooperative song and dance display for females. After the cooperative display, only one of the males will mate with the female. Students consider a variety of possible explanations for the cooperation seen in this species, and use data from the original study to corroborate or reject hypotheses they formulate. The case provides a framework for a discussion of social behavior, including kin selection and reciprocal altruism, as well as for consideration of observational tests of hypotheses in field biology. Students conclude the case by making predictions about behaviors in other bird species, especially other species of manakins.