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Turtles in Turmoil

Implications of Climate Change for the Green Sea Turtle


Author(s)

Ruth S. Bowers-Sword
Department of Biology
James Madison University
bowersrs@dukes.jmu.edu
Jack C. Doss
Department of Biology
James Madison University
dossjc@jmu.edu
Bruce A. Wiggins
Department of Biology
James Madison University
wigginba@jmu.edu

Abstract

This interrupted case study focuses on a biological phenomenon known as temperature-dependent sex determination to guide students through the scientific method. Using the endangered green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, as a model, students prepare for class by completing a background reading and question set for homework. Once in class, after a brief review of their homework assignment, students work in small groups to critically evaluate evidence and develop their own hypotheses and experimental design to test the effects that temperature may have on the sex ratios of green sea turtle hatchlings. Using published studies, students develop their own research question, interpret data, and infer conclusions with an emphasis on describing future implications of climate change on the survival of the green sea turtle. Designed for lower- to upper-level undergraduate students, this case study can be used in any biology, environmental science, or ecology course as an exercise for students to critically review scientific literature and develop their skills in proposing hypotheses, making predictions, designing experiments, and proposing solutions to real-world problems.


Objectives

  • Define temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD).
  • Understand how TSD determines sex ratios in green sea turtles.
  • Describe the relationship between climate change and TSD in reptiles.
  • Develop hypotheses and experimental designs to test the effects of changing global temperatures on TSD in green sea turtles.
  • Analyze and interpret data and figures from scientific literature.
  • Synthesize future implications of rising temperatures from climate change on the survival of green sea turtles.
  • Practice hypothesis development and experimental design.
  • Interpret data and figures from scientific literature.

Keywords

Reptiles; climate change; ecology; Great Barrier Reef; turtle; Chelonia mydas; sex determination; temperature-dependent sex determination; TSD; sea turtle

Topical Areas

N/A

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Climatology / Meteorology  |   Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Science (General)  |  


Date Posted

11/01/2021

Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below discusses trends in climate change, how shifting climates affect multiple reptile groups, temperature-dependent sex determination, and how rising temperatures may affect reproduction in reptilian species.

  
  turtle_turmoil_sup.pptx (~5.6 MB)

Answer Key

Answer keys for the cases in our collection are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.

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