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Andrea Bixler
Biology Department
Clarke University
Do Corridors Have Value in Conservation? 

This case study discusses conservation corridors as a means to reduce the problems of population size and isolation in a fragmented habitat. In an interrupted format, students learn what a corridor is, consider how nature preserves and corridors function, and analyze data from an article in Ecology on the use of corridors by various plant and animal species. As written, this case reviews and applies several topics from an introductory ecology and evolution class (population genetics, population ecology and island biogeography) to the problem of protecting species in fragmented habitats. It could be modified for use in environmental or conservation biology courses.

It’s a Crocodile! No, a Fish! No, a Dolphin!: Interpreting Evolutionary History from Fossil Evidence

It is not uncommon to hear creationists argue that evolution is not science because no one saw it happen, or for students to wonder how we can know anything about the physiology or behavior of organisms that went extinct hundreds of millions of years ago.  This case study, designed to complement the typical teaching of the scientific method that focuses on experimentation, emphasizes how much we can learn from observations. Starting from a mystery fossil that was collected by historical figure Mary Anning, students are presented with an array of comparative evidence to help them determine whether the organism was a crocodile, a fish, a dolphin, or something else. This case would be appropriate for an introductory majors biology course, particularly one in which evolution is covered.  It is taught in the flipped format, with videos on the scientific method and fossil evidence to provide students with background prior to starting the in-class work.  Students then work in groups to evaluate the evidence presented.

Which of These is True? Validity and Ethics in Scientific Experimentation 

Many biology courses are designed to develop student understanding and application of the scientific method, but few seriously examine the various ethical questions associated with scientific research. This interdisciplinary case study presents three experiments and asks not only if they are scientifically valid but whether they were ethically performed.  The experiments examine the psychology of love, a cause of breast cancer, and how the immune system functions in the presence of cancer. Based on their opinions of the validity and ethics of each experiment, students are asked to conclude which of the experiments were actually conducted by scientists and which are fictional. Students should already be familiar with the scientific method, but information on the Georgetown Mantra and Nuremberg Code is included. The case could be modified for use in non-majors and majors classes.  The format of the case challenges students of any background to use information from both science and ethics to see how the differing approaches of the scientist and the ethicist can complement and strengthen each other.