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The Case of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

The Scientific Process and How it Relates to Everyday Life



Co Authors:

Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall
Department of Plant Biology
University of Georgia
ksh@uga.edu

Jennifer Merriam
Biology Department
SUNY Orange
jennifer.merriam@sunyorange.edu

Ruth Ann Greuling
Office of the Provost
Northern New Mexico College

Abstract:

Based on the disputed rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in April 2005, this interrupted case study tells the story of a fictional character, "Brad Murky," a student and research assistant who must decide whether the current evidence is sufficient for him to accept the bird's existence. Brad and his sister debate the issue through a series of emails leaving him to wonder whether the press conference to announce the rediscovery of the bird was scheduled in haste. Designed for an introductory biology course, this case would also work well in an ecology, environmental science, environmental public policy, ornithology, or science and society course.

Objectives:
  • Apply the scientific process to a real life situation.
  • Recognize that science is an ongoing process, not a one-time method to find the final answer.
  • Explain the importance of the rejection of alternative hypotheses in the scientific process.
  • Give an example of how science affects decisions in every-day life.
  • Be familiar with the story of the ivory-billed woodpecker.
Keywords: Ivory-billed woodpecker; Campephilus principalis; birds; Cache National Wildlife Refuge; Arkansas
Topical Area: Policy issues, Scientific method, Science and the media
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management   Science (General)   Ecology  
Date Posted: 08/05/07
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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I used this case in an upper level environmental science class to review the scientific process. The students came up with some great pieces of evidence for Part I and named physical evidence that they could repeatedly test for authentication. For Part II they made great observations, but then for Part III they seemed to totally forget the evidence that they came up with for Part I and were swayed by the video as sufficient evidence. The students also had problems applying their discussion for this case to other types of environmental problems/policy (Part III, Question 5).

I think it would be helpful to have students also examine another environmental issue like global warming, and go through what evidence they would need, what evidence we have, and how to interpret the data.




Diane Herr
Science Department
Waterford High School
Waterford, CT 06385
dherr@waterfordschools.org
9/8/2009



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