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Matthew P. Rowe
Department of Biology
University of Oklahoma
Crazy About Cryptids! An Ecological Hunt for Nessie and Other Legendary Creatures 

Who wouldn't want to go in search of a creature like Bigfoot, Yeti, or the Loch Ness Monster?  Using the science of ecology, students do exactly that in this case study that encompasses a variety of case study teaching formats.  Working in groups, students are encouraged to discover and apply ecological concepts, including but not limited to geographic range, minimum viable population size, net primary productivity, and ecological efficiency.  During their intellectual quest, which focuses on "Nessie," students also consider important issues regarding the nature of science, such as peer review, multiple working hypotheses, expectation bias, and the principle of parsimony.  Designed for use in an introductory, nonmajors general education science course, the ultimate goal of this case is to demonstrate the power of science as a "way of knowing" to a cohort of often science-phobic students. The case study is also "flipped" in the sense that students view selected videos (including one made by the author) in advance to help prepare them to solve this ecological mystery in class.

Tragic Choices: Autism, Measles, and the MMR Vaccine 

This case explores the purported connection between vaccines in general, and the MMR vaccine specifically, and autism. Students examine results from the 1998 Lancet article that ignited and still fuels the anti-vaccine movement; students are then asked to design a better study to test the causal relationship between the vaccine and the disorder. This case was developed to help science-phobic undergraduates understand the distinctions between good science, bad science, and pseudoscience. Most importantly, the case shows how "thinking scientifically" is a learnable skill that can empower students to make intelligent choices for themselves and their families. As such, the case would be suitable for any course introducing students to the nature of science, good (vs. not-so-good) experimental designs, appropriate interpretations of data, science as a self-correcting process, etc. Opportunities exist to expand the case to focus on issues related to research ethics, responsible journalism, and the interface between science, society, and the law.