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A Colorful Picnic with Photosynthetic Pathways and RuBisCO on the Menu
In this interrupted case study developed for use in a flipped classroom, students read about a picnic that takes place in autumn during the peak of fall color and along the way learn about light absorption by photosynthetic pigments, why leaves turn co...

All That Glitters May Not Be Gold
In this decision case, a congressional staffer must weigh a number of competing concerns and issues, including popular reactions to genetically modified organisms, in deciding how to present information to her boss, an influential congressman drafting ...

Banana Split: To Eat or Not to Eat
This case focuses on the banana, the most popular fruit in the world.  In the first part of the case, students are introduced to the history of "Banana Republics" and the biological constraints to banana production, including the devastating funga...

Butterflies in the Stomach
Why is the North American population of monarch butterflies declining? In 1999, a study published in the journal Nature suggested that a variety of genetically modified corn was killing these iconic butterflies. While it was later shown that t...

Cauldron of Democracy
This case study explores the controversy surrounding Yellowstone bison (Bison bison) and the relationship between wildlife management and pluralist democracy. In the late 1960s Yellowstone National Park suspended the policy of strictly managin...

Certified Cultured Beef
In this case study, students are introduced to concepts and techniques in modern biotechnology, as well as the possible implications of this emerging science, by considering the possibility of in vitro cultured meat. Intended for use in a coll...

Corn Ethanol Debate
To what extent should corn be used for the production of ethanol? Are we better off producing corn for food or producing corn for fuel? This case study uses a technique called "intimate debate" (also known as "constructive controversy") in order to exa...

Do You Really Know What You're Eating?
Starting from a fictional “news” report about an apparent allergic reaction to a taco tainted by genetically modified corn, students consider some of the techniques and procedures used in modern molecular genetics and microbiology as well a...

Experimental Design and Statistical Analysis
This case is based on a research paper about the lignin content of genetically modified corn published in the American Journal of Botany. Students are asked to analyze and discuss the paper, focusing on questions related to experimental design...

Farming in Space
If you were limited to choosing only three crops to sustainably farm in an arid, inhospitable environment, what would they be and how would you decide? This interrupted case study places students in the role of a proposed self-sufficient Martian colony...

Farmville Future?
Life has changed for the rural residents of Farmville County since the arrival of four concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs); the air has an odor, wildlife has decreased, and illnesses are on the rise. One of the town's residents has become ac...

Frankenfoods?
This discussion case, in which a university research laboratory is vandalized by environmental activists opposed to genetic engineering, focuses on the science and ethics of genetically modified crops. Students consider both the risks and benefits of b...

From Prairies to Corn Fields for Fuel
With increasing U.S. government support for biofuel production in the late 2000s came increased pressure to convert more land to cornfields for ethanol. To make way for more corn, millions of acres of prairie grassland were plowed under, destroying an ...

Golden Rice
In this intimate debate case, students consider whether to support the development and use of Golden Rice as a means to alleviate vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Since many of the arguments typically raised against genetically modified or...

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for the Apple Industry?
In this interrupted case, students analyze a peer-reviewed article and apply the scientific method to solve an agricultural mystery. A fictional apple farmer and his son are trying to determine if high fructose corn syrup has led to the loss of the bee...

Joel E. Greengiant Learns About Peas
This case study follows purveyors of peas, Joel E. and Jolene Greengiant, as they learn about the origin, biochemistry, genetics and eventual artificial selection of sweet (wrinkled) peas, all in the context of evolutionary biology. This integrative ap...

Living Downstream
In this case, developed for a course in Issues in Environmental Biology, students learn that water samples collected from a local river show elevated levels of fecal bacteria and atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States. ...

Of Silt and Ancient Voices
This case explores the complex and multifaceted resource management issues that arose when traditional Zuni Indian land and water use practices were displaced by the construction of the Black Rock Irrigation Project by the U.S. government in the early ...

Pesticides
By simulating a public hearing, this case study requires that students sift through and organize information on pesticide use presented to them from the perspective of different stakeholders. The case asks a fundamental question, Can we do without ...

Prairie Garden of Troubles
This "clicker case" was developed for a general biology course for non-majors. It focuses on prairie habitat ecology and restoration. Jim, a young ecologist, has created a reconstructed prairie in his backyard. His neighbors don't like it and they have...

Seeds of Dissension
A possible act of industrial espionage is the backdrop for this case study, which introduces students to analytical techniques routinely used in most areas of biotechnology, including forensic science and paternity suits. In this fictional case, "Roger...

Sweet Beets: Making Sugar Out of Thin Air
This directed case study introduces students to photosynthesis and illustrates how biology plays a vital role in the carbon cycle and the conversion of energy. Set in North Dakota along the Red River of the North, the case uses the sugar beet (Beta...

The Buzz about Colony Collapse Disorder
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the widespread loss of honeybees, has devastating repercussions for the environment, industry, and the economy. This case study explores the possible causes, effects, and treatments for CCD by focusing on a family of hon...

The Case of the Missing Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has claimed approximately one-third of the commercial honeybee population in recent years. A number of causes have been suggested for this phenomenon, including the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by the be...

The Case of the Tainted Taco Shells: Advanced Edition
This case discusses some of the issues associated with the use of genetically modified plants, including ecological risks, resistance, and allergenicity. The case has two versions, or editions.  The "General Edition," also published on this site, ...

The Case of the Tainted Taco Shells: General Edition
This case discusses some of the issues associated with the use of genetically modified plants, including ecological risks, resistance, and allergenicity. The case has two versions, or editions.  This edition (the "General Edition") emphasizes the ...

The Deforestation of the Amazon
In this case study, students examine tropical deforestation in the Amazon from the perspective of three dominant stakeholders in the region: a peasant farmer, logger, and environmentalist. As part of the exercise, students perform a cost-benefit analys...

The Modern Caveman’s Dilemma
During the Paleolithic era, human life expectancy was only 33 years—roughly half of what it is today. We owe our more extended lives in part to better hygiene, medicines, and more plentiful foods. Yet some people aspire to return to that earlier ...

The Poop on Composting
This interrupted case study tells the story of Miles, a freshman in college, who volunteers to help with the composting program on campus. Miles is excited about composting but his mother is hesitant to try it at home. Miles learns about the key ingred...

The Value of a Wetland
This case study introduces students to the elements of a renewable resource management project. The issue of wetland drainage, for the purpose of increasing land available for annual crop production, is used to deliver the learning outcomes. Angela, a ...

Torn at the Genes
The setting for this case is the family dinner table, where a heated discussion about genetically altered foods is taking place. Marsha Cumberland’s brother-in-law has joined the family for dinner. Ed is an industry official whose job it is to de...

Tougher Plants
This "clicker case" follows two recent college graduates as they look for scientific answers to explain why the plants on their new tomato farm are not doing well. Working with their agricultural extension agent, they explore the scientific literature ...

Unintended Consequences of Plant Domestication on Plant-Insect Interactions
This case study investigates how plant domestication sometimes produces unintended consequences for plant-insect interactions. The narrative follows a boy in middle school, Podrick, who goes on a class field trip and notices that there are no caterpill...