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Susan Bandoni Muench
Biology Department
SUNY Geneseo
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.