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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...

Cancer Cure or Conservation
This case is based on the controversy that surrounded harvesting of the Pacific yew from 1989 to 1997 to develop paclitaxel (Taxol), a revolutionary anti-cancer drug. The case was designed to expose students to basic conservation biology concepts by ex...

Corn Ethanol: Using Corn to Make Fuel?
This problem-based case study guides students through a systematic exploration of the scientific issues surrounding the production and development of bio-fuels. A PowerPoint presentation introduces a New York Times article outlining the impact current ...

Darwin's Finches and Natural Selection
In this "clicker case," students learn about natural selection through the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant and colleagues on the finches of the Galapagos Islands. Students are presented with data in the form of graphs and asked to determine what i...

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...

Dust to Dust
Tom and his grandfather, a retired high school chemistry teacher, are talking about a National Geographic television documentary titled “Waking the Baby Mammoth.” As students read the dialogue that ensues, they learn how carbon, an essentia...

Ethanol or Biodiesel?
In this case study, two students have been asked to conduct a “systems analysis” study to determine whether ethanol derived from corn or biodiesel prepared from soybeans is the more energy efficient alternative fuel. The students must inves...

Ethnomedicine in Latino Communities of Madison
This PowerPoint-delivered case study guides the reader, a hypothetical student intern with the City of Madison (Wisconsin) Public Health Department, as he/she assists a physician who was awarded a grant to investigate the use of herbal medicines by Lat...

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...

Fish as Fertilizer
In this case study, students examine data from a number of published studies of the effects of Pacific salmon on freshwater and riparian ecosystems. The case focuses on the interesting phenomenon of spawning salmon acting as nutrient conveyor belts, tr...

Fishing for Answers in the Gulf of Mexico's Dead Zone
This “clicker case” addresses the eutrophication of aquatic systems caused by human activities. "Susan" is a biology student working at a seafood restaurant on the Gulf of Mexico. She discovers that the restaurant doesn't serve locally caug...

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...

Glowing Plants on Kickstarter
This case study is centered on a real scenario from 2013 in which the Kickstarter fundraising platform included a fundraising proposal from a group wanting to use synthetic biology to make glowing plants. The proposal raised controversy because the Glo...

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...

How Many More Thymes? A Case of Phytochemical Defense
This clicker case addresses several concepts related to the evolutionary ecology of herbivore defenses. A survey of several different studies that investigated chemical defenses in Thymus vulgaris (thyme) gives students the opportunity to deve...

I'm Looking Over a White-Striped Clover
This case is an exploration of the process of natural selection using white clover (Trifolium repens) as an example. In general, two forms of white clover can be found around the world in various habitats. One type is able to produce cyanide i...

Impacts of Climate Change on Pinyon Pine Cone Production
In this interrupted case study, students explore how changing climate may affect cone production in pinyon pine (Pinus edulis). Students begin by learning about mast seeding, a common reproductive strategy among many perennial plant species, a...

Is Guaiacum Sanctum Effective Against Arthritis?
Dr. Beth Tonoany, a tropical population ecologist, is studying an unusual tree, Guaiacum sanctum, in the tropical forests of Central America. Interestingly, several local Ticos have told her that they use the tree for medicinal purposes. Stude...

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...

Kill the Aliens: Controlling Leafy Spurge
The majority of people in the world interact with nature in an urban setting. Management issues in urban parks tend to be more challenging than in “natural” parks for a variety of reasons, including heavy use, proximity to housing, local ad...

Killing Chloroplasts
This case study takes place at a fictional biotechnology company developing herbicides against invasive plant species. The case study focuses on five herbicides with different effects on photosynthesis. Students play the role of lab interns and explore...

Knot Your Typical Weed
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is an invasive plant that can be very hard to eliminate. This PowerPoint-driven case study briefly describes this plant and asks students to identify possible solutions for its control when a homeowner dis...

Kudz-who? and Other Questions of Invasive Species
It is now well known that non-native species have the potential to be harmful to an ecosystem, but that wasn't always the case, and getting rid of non-native invasive species is usually a difficult task. This brief, interrupted case study tells the sto...

Marketing Mostly Intangible Goods: The Case of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta
This case study illustrates some of the common social and economic problems facing botanical gardens and arboreta today. The case describes a conversation between Angie and Suzie, two long-time staff members at an unnamed botanical garden. The women ar...

Mendel Dreams
In this PowerPoint-based clicker case, developed for use in either a general biology or general genetics class, students are introduced to the life and work of Gregor Mendel.  The initial slides set up the story as we see Mendel, who is ill, remin...

Mildred Using Plants
The format for this case is unusual.  The PowerPoint of the "case" provides an in-class framework for working through all of the activities associated with the case.  These activities are explained in the teaching notes.  The teaching no...

Oak Clearcutting
The topic of this debate case, developed for a course in “Issues in Environmental Biology,” is clear-cutting, a controversial method of harvesting and regenerating trees in which all trees are cleared from a site. Students debate the issue,...

Osmosis is Serious Business!
This directed case study involves two “stories,” each one concerned with some aspect of osmosis in living cells. Part I is centered around the effects of a hypertonic environment on plant cells, while Part II focuses on the effects of a hyp...

Osmosis is Serious Business! Hebrew Translation
This directed case study, translated from the original English into Hebrew, involves two “stories,” each concerned with some aspect of osmosis in living cells. Part I is centered around the effects of a hypertonic environment on plant cells...

Plant Transpiration
This flipped case study is formatted as a PowerPoint presentation that uses group experimentation to encourage active learning in a large science classroom. There are options for using either wet bench experimentation or an online simulation, depending...

Poison Ivy
A longstanding belief that has it roots in Native American folklore is that the crushed leaves of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) relieve the skin's allergic reaction to the toxin of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). This case was d...

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...

Reproductive Isolation in Columbines
This clicker case uses plant-pollinator interactions in columbines as a biological scenario to teach students about evolution, reproductive isolation, and angiosperm reproduction. The case is based on an approach to evolution education called tree-thin...

Response to Plant Invasion
This interrupted case study provides students with an opportunity to compare and contrast methods for controlling spotted knapweed, an invasive species in the United States that has raised considerable concern in western pastures and rangeland. Student...

Rings as Keys to the Past
This flipped case study was written to provide foundational understanding of woody stem (tree) anatomy and to illustrate how scientific support is used to determine the age of objects made of wood, which in turn may affect an object's value. The narrat...

The Case of a Tropical Disease and its Treatment
This case study highlights the epidemiological and socioeconomic factors associated with a disease which plagues thousands of people in Central and South America.  The case follows the story of Adrian, a banana plantation worker in southwestern Co...

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 Dead Zone
This interrupted case study focuses on the seasonal hypoxic area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the Dead Zone. It follows Sue, a college student, whose father is a commercial fisherman affected by the lack of fish in his usual fishing grounds in the su...

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 Ecology of Opuntia Fragilis (Nuttall) Haworth
This interrupted case is based on the author's own personal research on the fragile prickly pear cactus in Stearns County, Minnesota. The data described is a product of the work of several undergraduate students at St. Johns University, which partially...

The Last Spruce Grove
This case study follows a drama that unfolded around a stand of Sitka spruce trees (Picea sitchensis) on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The stand held significant historical and cultural significance, particularly to the local first-natio...

The Medicinal Use of Marijuana
Whether marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes has been contested for decades. The claims, counter-claims, issues, and judgments in this high profile controversy make it an excellent candidate for “intimate debate.” While simi...

The Perilous Plight of the Pika
This interrupted case study addresses several concepts related to climate change and its effect on the American pika. Often called an indicator species for climate change, the pika has a unique set of variables specific to its environment. Factors such...

The Wolf, the Moose, and the Fir Tree
In this analysis case, students study predator-prey dynamics in the Isle Royale National Park ecosystem drawing on data and findings from the article “Wolves, Moose, and Tree Rings on Isle Royale” by B.E. McLaren and R.O. Peterson published...

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...

War of the Roses
In this case, students use lab techniques to determine how the protagonist of the story, a student in a plant pathology class, can find out what is wrong with his mother’s roses. The case introduces students to sources of information for the prop...

What is a Species?
This "clicker case" is modified from Martin Kelly's case study "As the Worm Turns: Speciation and the Apple Maggot Fly," also in our collection. Classic cases of incipient speciation such as the apple maggot fly and the hawthorn maggot fly are an excel...

You Poured it Where?
This "clicker case" focuses on the invasive aquarium strain of Caulerpa taxifolia as a way of introducing students to issues about invasive species. Specifically, students learn to identify some of the traits that make a species potentially in...