Association for Biology Laboratory Education

ABLE 2017 Mini Workshops

Photo of mini workshop presenter working with attendee on an iPadMini workshops are 45 minutes in length (some mini workshops may be presented twice) and are presented on Friday, June 16. Mini workshops are given to present novel curricular approaches to teaching biology. They are not strictly limited to presentations about teaching in a laboratory setting. They may be presented as a lecture, demonstration, computer laboratory, or hands-on wet-lab activity. All the mini-workshop presentations include some audience participation and discussion.

8:30-9:30 AM  |  11:00-11:50 AM  |  1:30-2:20 PM  |  3:00-3:50 PM

8:30-9:20 AM

Designing Effective Introductory Biology Labs: Part I – Fostering a Spirit of Inquiry

John Peters, College of Charleston, SC

Consider the experiences of students enrolled in your college’s introductory biology labs.  Do your students come to value the spirit of scientific inquiry? By this, I mean; do they have diverse opportunities to experience the creativity involved in scientific discovery? Do they come to value the collaborative nature of science?   Does that which motivates scientists to explore nature also motivate your students? Traditional guided & concept-focused labs (the follow directions and answer questions approach) often ignore these questions, simply assuming that just because labs are “hands-on”, and mimic “the scientific method” that students will come to appreciate scientific inquiry.   In this first of a two-part workshop, participants will experience labs and associated pedagogies designed to foster student engagement, a creative mindset, independence of thought, and effective collaboration.  At the end of the workshop, participants will be able to examine the entire inquiry-based lab approach utilized in our large-enrollment introductory biology labs along with samples of instructional resources provided to our graduate (Masters-level) lab teaching assistants.


Understanding Phylogenetic Trees as Hypothesis Testing Tools with HHMI’s Lizard Evolution Virtual Lab

Tara Jo Holmberg, Northwestern Connecticut Community College, CT

The Lizard Evolution Virtual Lab from HHMI-BioInteractive engages students in the collection and analysis of authentic data on Anolis lizards to investigate adaptation, convergent evolution, reproductive isolation, and speciation. The lab is organized in four modules, providing flexibility and scalability for use in a variety of courses and settings. This workshop will introduce the first two modules. In the first module, students make observations and collect and interpret data that suggest that different lizard species display adaptations that fit their ecological niches. In the second module, students use phylogenetic trees to test hypotheses about the evolutionary history of these species and their adaptations. Participants of this workshop will experience the lab as a student, collecting data and answering questions through the virtual lab platform, while also gathering tips and suggested modifications from an educator who has used this virtual lab in her course. Connections to Vision and Change will be integrated into the presentation.


Using the Mother of Thousands plant (Kalanchoe) for semester long integrated laboratories

Doug Rouse and Beth Hinkens, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kalanchoe is a common house plant that reproduces asexually by budding plantlets from its leaf margins. Plantlet production is prolific, earning the plant its common name, Mother of Thousands (MOTs). The abundance of plantlets makes large scale experiments possible, and the fact that MOTs are relatively slow growing allows us to maintain them in the laboratory through the whole semester. At the start of term, each of our students (as many as 800 in a single semester) plant individual MOTs, divided among treatments with high or low light and high or low nutrition. As students observe the differences in growth under these various regimes, they study the evolution, physiology, and ecology of Kalanchoe. First, students practice making phylogenetic trees from both morphological traits and DNA sequence data for several members of the Crassulaseae, including Kalanchoe. Next, they investigate the response of MOTs and other plants to drought stress by measuring differences in leaf water potential. In their final module, students take what they have learned and propose and conduct an ecological experiment to test MOTs’ responses to population or community level factors. We are excited to share the benefits (and struggles!) of implementing this curriculum with the ABLE community.


Digital Video Feedback and Labs – The students like it, why don’t you?

Alp Oran, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Ca

I will demonstrate the merits of digital video feedback over traditional hand-written or text-based methods of assessment, for example, of lab reports, research proposals, and/or oral presentations. Using a method that I developed  at our teacher’s college, participants will have a chance to compare a traditional grading exercise involving handwritten notes with a digital video-based delivery system that is free and downloadable for Windows and Mac devices. Consequently, participants are encouraged but not required to BYOD, My interests in sharing my experiences with video feedback also includes a pedagogical study of my own design involving my M.Ed. Although I have collected data of my undergraduate lab student experiences with video feedback (which I will also be sharing), I am hoping to add to it teacher perspectives from this workshop. With an ERB-approved consent form from my institution, participants (both new to or experts with video feedback) will be given the option to share their perspectives on this approach to assessment. Due to time restrictions of this workshop, however, participants may be asked to share these observations electronically outside of the workshop and at their earliest convenience.


Capstone Research at a Community College: A Cross-Disciplinary Model with Discipline-Specific Projects

Joanna Vondrasek, Piedmont Virginia Community College, VA

Piedmont Virginia Community College has developed an award-winning curriculum model in which all students enrolled in the A.S. in Physical & Natural Science degree conduct a semester-long, faculty-mentored research project as a graduation requirement. The two-credit research course serves as a capstone project in which students design and conduct authentic scientific research. One science faculty member carries teaching credit for the course and leads combined meetings on proposal writing, data analysis, poster construction, presentation skills and abstract writing. Additional full-time science faculty mentor 1-3 students per semester in their discipline. Students present their findings at an end-of-semester poster session open to the wider college community. Since the program’s formal implementation in 2009, our students have successfully presented their findings at national meetings, collaborated with community and university partners, made new contributions to science, and transferred to 4-yr institutions as science majors. The mini workshop will lead participants in a discussion of the benefits and challenges of this model and of implementing mentored research at undergraduate institutions where faculty time, student preparation, funding and space may be limiting.


Using Meshmixer to Create 3D Designs for your Teaching Laboratory

John Stewart, Felicia Osburn, and Donald French, Oklahoma State University, OK

Physical models for classrooms have long aided teachers to show and explain biological ideas, while researchers in fields like ethology use physical models, or dummies, to design experiments, such as eliciting behavioral responses from their research subjects. Modern 3D-printers allow educators and researchers to inexpensively produce multiplicate unique objects quickly and without the use of specialized artisans. These items are useful for displaying molecules, organisms, fossils, and organs. Teachers can also design research dummies for authentic ethology experiments or replacement parts for laboratory equipment. However, the seemingly arcane art of producing 3D files can intimidate people. We offer you the opportunity to learn how to use a free 3D modeling program called MeshMixer to create and modify 3D objects. We will guide you through how to manage file types, add features to objects, virtually sculpt items, and more. Then, we will answer questions and offer support as you explore the program. We will also share information about other software and 3D printing concerns. While we will conduct this workshop in a computer laboratory, we encourage participants to bring their own laptops (either Windows or Macintosh) along with computer mice.


BioTAP 2.0 (Biology Teaching Assistant Project): Engaging individuals in scholarly research about biology

Kristen Miller, Grant Gardner, Gili Mrbach-Ad, Judith Ridgway, Elisabeth Schussler, University of Georgia and others

BioTAP 2.0 is a National Science Foundation funded Research Coordination Network grant whose aim is to build capacity within the network for collaborative research on biology graduate teaching assistant teaching professional development (GTA TPD). By helping practitioners assess their own programs, and by working with others to compare assessments across institutions, the network can build the empirical data necessary to make data-driven decisions about programmatic practices. The BioTAP Scholars program leads selected cohorts of individuals through an intensive, year-long program in how to design and engage in a scholarly research project on some aspect of a biology GTA TPD program. Participants in this mini-workshop will learn about the goals and accomplishments of BioTAP 2.0 to date, including data from a national survey on GTA TPD efforts, as well as the Research Development Sessions (RDS) and Virtual Learning Communities (VLC) for BioTAP Scholars. Members of the first BioTAP Scholars cohort will be present to share their experiences with the Scholars program and engage in dialogue about their research project plans and progress. This is an excellent time to network with individuals who share common interests in GTA TPD.


Game of Proteins: An Interactive Board Game to Review the Secretory Pathway

Kati Tormanen, Sarah Carmona, and Debra Mauzy-Melitz, University of California – Irvine, CA

The secretory pathway is a vital component of cell biology. Many undergraduate biology courses cover the pathway in detail, yet students struggle to see how its components connect into the bigger picture of protein secretion. We have developed an interactive board game to illustrate and engage students in protein transport throughout the entire secretory pathway. This activity was originally developed for an introductory biology course in a small group discussion setting. In this game, students assume the role of a protein and answer questions to move through the pathway. Our questions range from protein movement and quality control to organelle function. The approximate time for this activity is 45 minutes, but can be adjusted for different settings and grade levels based on question difficulty. In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to try the activity and learn how to administer it. Workshop participants will also be given a copy of the game board and a list of basic gameplay questions.


OK Google, what protein mutation should I study? An online practice of experimental design in biochemistry

Dail Chapman, David Tatarkis,  and Debra Mauzy-Melitz, University of California – Irvine, CA

One of the most important and challenging goals of undergraduate education is to prepare students for the real-world application of theories and concepts they are exposed to in the classroom. However, it is often difficult to make the jump from guided experiments to novel biomedical research in lab classes. This workshop bridges this gap through an innovative activity in experimental design that utilizes freely available online resources to hone future discovery-based labs in biochemistry. Using the well characterized tumor-suppressor p53 as an example, participants will learn how to explore protein structure, known associated mutations, and their impact with these online tools: PDB101, COSMIC, and MutationAssessor. Armed with this new knowledge on the protein mutation, the activity addresses how to help students develop hypotheses about the effect of the chosen mutation and design experiments to test these hypotheses. This versatile activity could be implemented in both lab and lecture courses for introductory biology, genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry. The activity has the advantage of encouraging student’s higher thinking skills while increasing interest and experience in experimental design.


Planting Bryophytes in the Biology Lab Curriculum

Linda Fuselier, University of Louisville, KY

Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) are small plants that are often overlooked as model organisms in biology labs. Bryophytes are easy to obtain, culture and maintain and bryophtes can be used to teach skills and content in several areas of the laboratory curriculum. This mini workshop will introduce participants to several ways to incorporate mosses and liverworts into the biology laboratory. The workshop leader has successfully used bryophytes to teach plant evolution and experimental design in introductory biology, plant anatomy and life histories in botany labs, and basic molecular forensics in molecular ecology labs and to involve undergraduate students in field and lab research. The workshop will include an introduction to bryophytes, examples of several species that are easy to culture and maintain, culturing methods and inexpensive, tested lab activities that use readily obtained bryophytes. Participants will identify common mosses and liverworts, complete portions of lab exercises and harvest gemmae for starting their own cultures. All activities are meant to increase knowledge about bryophytes, their biology and ecology, and encourage participants to use bryophytes as model organisms in their labs and research.

11:00-11:50 AM

Designing Effective Introductory Biology Labs: Part II – Fostering Scientific Intellectual Competencies and Attitudes

John Peters, College of Charleston, SC

The goal of most traditional science labs is to confirm or reinforce understanding of concepts or processes, and it is usually those very abstract concepts, which serve as the context for the lab exploration.  Although these labs use scientific methods, they often prompt students to follow an explicit set of instructions, which should yield a preplanned outcome. Because the context of the lab is often quite abstract to the leaner, students often mindlessly follow these instructions and attempt to interpret the findings by answering questions provided to them at the end of the lab.  For students, these lab experiences can be more akin to blindly following a cookbook recipe, and like a recipe, is often thought to have failed if the expected results don’t materialize.  These highly guided and largely concept-focused labs do little to help students become more comfortable with the question-driven, dynamic and tentative nature of science; appreciate why we should trust scientific knowledge; value basic scientific knowledge and its connections to issues that will confront them in their personal and civic lives, and provide an authentic science experience which helps them to make decisions about how they would like to interact with science in their future professional lives?  In this hands-on workshop, participants will be engaged in labs and associated pedagogies that foster the development of intellectual skills, and attitudes that are so important to both science literacy and valuing the spirit of scientific inquiry.   At the end of the workshop, participants will be able to examine the inquiry-based lab approach utilized in our large-enrollment introductory biology labs along with samples of instructional resources provided to our graduate (Masters-level) teaching assistants. (Note:  you need not have attended the Part 1 workshop to attend this one, and you are welcome to come to both.)


Understanding Adaptation and Reproductive Isolation Through Experimentation and Data Analysis with HHMI’s Lizard Evolution Virtual Lab

Tara Jo Holmberg, Northwestern Connecticut Community College, CT

The Lizard Evolution Virtual Lab from HHMI-BioInteractive engages students in the collection and analysis of authentic data on Anolis lizards to investigate adaptation, convergent evolution, reproductive isolation, and speciation. The lab is organized in four modules, providing flexibility and scalability for use in a variety of courses and settings. This workshop will introduce the second two modules of the lab. Students practice and explore experimental design, quantitative measurement, basic statistical analysis, and interpretation of data in the context of two key evolutionary concepts: adaptation and reproductive isolation. Participants of this workshop will experience the lab as a student, collecting data and answering questions through the virtual lab platform, while also gathering tips and suggested modifications from an educator who has used this virtual lab in her course. Connections to Vision and Change will be integrated into the presentation.


Wisconsin Fast Plants and inquiry based laboratories

Doug Rouse and Seth McGee, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Wisconsin Fast Plants provide a variety of possibilities for inquiry based laboratory experiences. We will discuss several examples with demonstration materials available for examination and look forward to a lively exchange of ideas. Fast Plants make it possible for students to examine phenotypes and the associated genotypes by following plants through multiple generations. Selection for any one of a number of traits can be accomplished at a population level to evaluate inheritance. For example, students observe the expression of pigments; specific plants are selected for intensity of pigment expression. Students cross-pollinate selected plants and observe offspring to measure gain from selection. Students also engage in other guided and independent research projects—often focused on plant environmental response—with Fast Plants. Fast Plants are being used to launch an exercise with PCR. The water potential of fast plants is being measured as part of a water relations laboratory comparing water stressed Fast Plants with Kalanchoe (a member of the Crassulaceae). Yet another system using Fast Plants is looking at variation in disease expression in two populations of Fast Plants that differ in resistance. In one population (Brassica juncea) all plants in the population are susceptible to white rust caused by Albugo candida. The variation in disease scores is relatively low. In the second population (B. rapa) there is a major resistance gene. Nevertheless there is considerable variation between plants including some intermediates. The examination of disease severity on plants in these two populations provides a departure point for discussing genetics of resistance and formulating hypotheses about the observed variation between plants.


Customizable GORP for your individual laboratory learning needs

Alp Oran, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Ca

When you hear GORP, you likely think about trail mix, a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, and candies used to nourish hikers on their long sojourns in the wilderness. In this instance, however, GORP stands for General Observation and Reflection Platform, a free digital application hosted by UC Davis but based on an earlier protocol developed in Canada for classroom observation. Yet, just like its nutritious homograph, GORP is customizable, allowing any stakeholder the opportunity to observe, catalog, and analyze virtually any activity over time in any learning setting, In this workshop, participants will learn how GORP can be applied to address the learning needs of the lab course educator. Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to test sample protocols as well as learn the steps to create their own. It is recommended that participants bring their own digital devices in order to maximize their nourishment with GORP.


Seeing is Believing: Looking at insect diversity in natural fields, playing fields, and right outside your door.

Marsha Fanning and Brian Johnson, Lenoir-Rhyme University, NC & East Gaston HS

Species diversity is one of the fundamental concepts of ecology, and while students often think they understand what it means, they often don’t fully appreciate it. Actually seeing how a small change in habitat can result in huge changes in diversity gives a lasting impression. In this workshop, participants will sample insects in two very similar but different habitats, and determine species richness and evenness. Diversity of size, and color, as well as kind becomes obvious. Hypotheses about the effect of various biotic and abiotic parameters, including the effect of various land uses, can be tested. How this exercise is used in both college and high school biology classes, as well as a unique way of having students present “mini posters” will be discussed.


An exercise in critically evaluating experimental design: Can the “Peak Performance Pack” benefit adults of every

Lori Rose, Sam Houston State University, TX

Nutritional supplement companies often tout their products as having been “clinically tested” and demonstrated to “benefit adults of every age.” Bombarded daily with such advertising, students are expected to make informed decisions regarding the risks, benefits, and costs of nutritional supplements. This exercise will examine the “scientific evidence” presented on the internet by a supplement company, Melaleuca: The Wellness Company. Participants are divided into groups, presented the materials provided publicly by the company, and asked to evaluate the experimental design used in each of two studies. Studies presented are “The Freiburg Study” and the “Sterling Study.” Participants should evaluate the following: controls, sample size, placebo, single-blind, double-blind, definitions (“wellness,” “benefit,” “clinical trials”), dependent and independent variables. The evaluation should also consider the implications of peer-review and funding for the studies. Designed for freshman level biology students, the learning objectives of this exercise are: 1. Develop understanding of experimental design and clinical trials, 2. Appreciate differences between science, weak science, and pseudoscience, 3. Develop confidence to determine which over-the-counter nutritional supplements are worth purchasing (or not). This exercise can be adapted to upper division anatomy, physiology, and nursing courses by expanding discussion of physiological responses.


Using Paper Making and Fabric to Teach Across Scales: From Microscopic Cells to Fabric and Paper

Megan Pease and Lisa Strong, Rock Valley College, IL

A challenging concept to learn and teach is the connection between microscopic observations and tangible macroscopic observations including historical context. During the Rock Valley College Plants and Society introductory biology course for non-majors, Dr. Megan Pease and Mrs. Lisa Strong use the Plant Tissues lab to help students make the connection between observations of plant cells, fabric, student made paper and the historical context of using plants for more than just food. During this mini workshop participants will view prepared slides of various plant cells, test samples of fabric to determine the lignin content and walk through the steps students go through to make the connection to fabric feel and the paper they have made from various plant organs like cabbage leaves and radish hypocotyls. Participants will also be exposed to the brief historical context covered in more detail during the lecture of this portion. The goal of this workshop is to present an ordered method of teaching across scales, share our successes and failures with the techniques and invite feedback for improving weaknesses with the lab.


Using Social Network Analysis to better understand student connections and learning

Dittrich-Reed, Clemson University, SC

In laboratories and other active learning environments, learning is embedded in a social context: students learn with and from the students with whom they interact. According to social capital theory, students with more social connections to other students have greater access to the information and skills of their peers, which promotes learning and academic success. Instructors who can monitor social connections among their students can better understand how information flows through a classroom and whether all students have access to that flow of information. However, identifying and quantifying student social connections can be difficult without the proper tools. Social Network Analysis is a set of techniques and statistical methods that quantify and visualize connections between students. In this workshop, participants will learn how to collect and interpret social network data. Participants will learn the basics of social network theory as well as methods for surveying students to collect meaningful social network data. Additionally, participants will work in small groups with sample classroom networks to practice interpreting network graphs and statistics. Interested participants will be provided with resources to help them learn how to use the necessary applications to perform the analyses on their own.


Undergraduate students are the key to community science outreach partnerships

Michelle Harris, Sara Grange, and Austin Feeney, University of Wisconsin – Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate students will describe their experiences working with K-12 teachers and students to promote science in rural Wisconsin classrooms. The Biocore Outreach Ambassadors (BOA) are students in the UW-Madison Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) program who volunteer their time to enrich rural K12 science curriculum by introducing inquiry-based science activities aligned with Next Generation Science Standards. The scientific approach that inspires BOA outreach activities is a natural extension of the authentic inquiry process that Biocore students experience in our integrated 4-semester honors curriculum. BOA outreach activities include classroom visits, Family Fun Science Nights, After School Science Club, American Family Children’s Hospital visits, and a week-long Summer Science Camp for 4th-12th graders. BOA students will describe their volunteer teaching experiences, community interactions and how they affect their own learning and attitudes toward science. The BOA advisor will discuss the pedagogical and logistical support she provides to students, as well as the inherent mentorship challenges. ABLE attendees will be invited to share their own experiences with science outreach and a list of best practices will be generated and shared.


A Clean Energy Teaching Tool: Microbial Fuel Cells!

Mary Ann McLean, Eric McLeod, and Keegan Pronovost, St Mary’s University, Calgary, Ca

Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) have garnered recent interest due to their potential in remediating industrial and municipal wastewater while generating environmentally sustainable electricity. MFCs use anaerobic microbes to degrade organic materials and transport the resulting electrons outside their cells to an external electron acceptor such as an anode. These cells can produce measurable electrical currents and, if a capacitor is used, power a small device such as an LED light. That microbes can produce electricity is a surprise to students, indicating to what extent the different sciences are siloed in students’ minds. This exercise is a biotech application of microbiology which emphasizes the connections between microbiology, chemistry and ecology. The workshop will begin with a brief explanation of the construction of the cells and their uses. Groups of 2-4 participants will work together to make a MFC of their own and measure voltage and current from prepared MFCs. Following this, participants will have time to explore the use of MFCs to enhance understanding of microbial ecology, microbial electro-chemistry, and environmental issues such as remote and/or renewable power production and wastewater treatment.


Photosynthesis, a look inside the leaf

Catarina Mata, Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY, NY

This cheap and easy photosynthesis lab is an alternative or complement to gas exchange and light absorbance labs. Students will understand the relations between structure and function in photosynthesis. After learning the functional differences between C3 and C4 plants, students will try to locate in easily available fresh leaves where they think most cells are doing photosynthesis based on chloroplast abundance. Students prepare fresh leaf cuts, and epidermal peels. Learn basic leaf anatomy and look for evidence of photosynthetic locations. Students draw the structure and explain the path from sugar producing cells to the phloem and from outside CO2 to the fixation sites. If time allows, students are provided leaves from different habitats and relate adaptations such as leaf cuticle, sunken or exposed stomata, leaf thickness and other traits to the environment the leaves are from and the challenges they face. Prepared slides of standard C3 and C4 leaves, mono and dicots are desirable to complement fresh samples that turn out to be a little thicker. This lab requires only microscopes, razor blades, slides and a leaves picked around campus or at the grocery store.

1:30-2:20 PM

Creating a Dichotomous Key: Pattern Recognition in Plants for Introductory Biology

Krista Larsen, St. Mary’s University, Nova Scotia, Ca

Dichotomous keys are widely used by biologists to identify organisms. The use of a dichotomous key requires knowledge of anatomy and technical terminology of the organism in question. The creator of a dichotomous key requires further skills in pattern recognition and reasoning. Pattern recognition is required to group organisms according to commonalities, yet identify a unique character in each. Reason is crucial to create a functioning key with a logical series of choices. In this workshop participants will work in pairs to create a dichotomous key for a given group of pressed herbarium specimens. Participants will use the text, “How to Identify Plants” by H.D. Harrington, to learn terminology relative to the flower, inflorescence, stem, leaves, fruits, seeds and underground parts. These terms will be incorporated throughout the key. After the keys have been created, participants will test each others keys and potential modifications to the exercise will be discussed. Topics and skills explored in this workshop include plant terminology, plant anatomy, plant diversity, pattern recognition and reasoning.


The Game of Parasitism:  A new approach to presenting life cycles

Marilee Ramesh, Roanoke College, VA

Life cycles have been a standard in introductory biology instruction, but are met with less than enthusiastic responses from students.  In a field such as Parasitism, life cycles are integral to understanding disease transmission and discovering methods of prevention.  Life cycles tend to be complex, often requiring multiple hosts, stages, and environments.   To address the concept of life cycles in way that uses active learning approaches, I assigned students to create a board game based on a specific parasitic life cycle.  In small groups, they developed a game proposal and a materials list.  They created a prototype of the game, including a board, playing pieces, playing cards, and instructions.  In addition to presenting their game to the class, the games are played and evaluated by their classmates.  This assignment is a multi-stage project that is integrated into the second half of the semester with final presentations and game evaluation occurring during the last week.  The assignment is evaluated based on scientific accuracy and depth, division of labor, and quality of the final product.  Examples of student projects will be presented and participants will have the opportunity to evaluate (play) them.   This assignment incorporates active learning, team building, creativity, and peer evaluation to produce a finished product that demonstrates an understanding of the importance of life cycles in the field of parasitism.


No, it’s not about Pipetting!

Stephanie Mel, University of California San Diego, CA

Learning to use appropriate statistical tests and learning Excel are among the most useful skills that beginning biology students can acquire.  In this simple module used in our introductory biology lab course, students combine a wet lab exercise with computer analysis to determine if volumes of water that have been pipetted correctly vs. incorrectly are statistically the same or different.  In addition to working on their pipetting skills, students learn to use Excel for basic math functions and t-tests, and we discuss the significance of statistical analysis.


Curriculum Materials Available Through the University of Wisconsin, Plant Teaching Collection

Michael Clayton, University of Wisconsin – Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Botany, has developed a set of teaching resources available at Included is a subset of images and movies encompassing botanical instruction as reflected in our introductory course. These may be sampled at We also have produced a set of lab topics and corresponding web lessons for the course. We invite others to use these resources. This use may include modifying the lab topics and lessons to suite your own curricular needs. The collection is not in the public domain. While we encourage others to use our collection, we wish to track who and how the materials are used. Within this framework, we wish to make the materials as freely available as possible. The lab topics and web lessons may be sampled at  In this mini workshop, I wish to demonstrate how we integrate these resources together so that the lab manual, lab room, and lab web pages reinforce the same learning goals. I also wish to explore the logistics of how to freely share these resources with interested participants.


Developing a non-traditional lecture, laboratory, discussion style course incorporating resources from

Laura Monahan, UW-Madison Zoological Museum

In this session, we will discuss the development of the course, Introduction to Museum Studies in the Natural Sciences and how it has evolved over the past ten years. This course is unique because: 1) It integrates lecture, laboratory and discussion into the one meeting session per week. 2) It incorporates organizations and specialists from campus and the community. For example, the UW Arboretum, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, UW Collections including the Geology Museum, Wisconsin Insect Research Collection and the Wisconsin State Herbarium, among others. 3) It is a variable credit course. Students who want to receive greater preprofessional experience, can opt for an additional credit, which will allow them to intern at a cooperating institution. This extra internship, arranged by the course coordinator, offers the student a rare opportunity to work one-on-one with professionals at the University and/or with partner museums in the community. At the end of this mini-session, we will tour the UW-Madison Zoological Museum collections.


Flying 101: Drosophila Lab for Undergraduates

Kristina Lackey, University of California Irvine, CA

We have developed a simple yet powerful wet lab module that provides undergraduates with the opportunity to use Drosophila as a model organism. In this lab, students will explore Drosophila taste preference using a two-choice plate assay (adapted from Taninurma et al., 1982). Briefly, Drosophila will be given a choice between a popular artificial sweetener and sucrose, each dyed with a different color food dye. After being allowed to feed in the dark for an extended period, the taste preference of flies can be determined by counting the number of flies with each color gut. In addition to introducing students to Drosophila rearing and genetics, the two-choice plate assay allows undergraduates to practice pipetting, calculations and making up solutions. Ultimately, students will obtain quantitative data to further analyze using statistical analysis. This assay can be used to study taste receptor mutants in Drosophila, stage-related nutritional preferences, taste-related genetic dimorphisms, electrophysiology of taste and evolutionary conservation of taste, making this module highly adaptable to many curricula. In this workshop, participants will learn how to set up the two-choice plate assay, as well as score flies that have been tested and calculate preference indexes.


A PCR assay for the anthocyaninless mutation in Fast Plants and a bridge between classical genetics and genomics.

Doug Wendell, Oakland University, MN

I will present a PCR assay to detect the mutation responsible for the non-purple trait in Rapid Cycling Brassica rapa (RCBr), a.k.a. Wisconsin Fast Plants and ways to incorporate it in the biology lab. Purple vs. non-purple variation in RCBr is an easy-to-score Mendelian trait with non-purple being recessive to purple. My group has recently identified an insertion mutation in the gene for dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR) as being responsible for the non-purple trait. I have developed a robust PCR assay that detects the mutant and wild type alleles of this gene in any Fast Plant strain. In this mini workshop you will see the PCR assay and use the nucleotide sequence of the mutant and wild type alleles as a bridge between classical genetics, molecular genetics, and bioinformatics .


DNA Investigations: Computer-based Case Studies

Joann Mudge, National Center for Genome Resources, NM

Your students need to know about DNA sequencing  and bioinformatics (DNA analysis). Why? Any student considering a career in biology will use DNA sequencing as a tool to answer biological questions. But it isn’t just biology students who will need to understand the power and subtleties of DNA sequencing and analysis. It will not be long before DNA sequencing becomes routine when visiting the doctor. Further, many inexpensive services will sequence your DNA for you, giving you ancestral and medical information directly from your genome. In this mini-workshop, you will work through a computer-based case study using DNA sequences to answer biological questions. You will be introduced to several other case studies and learn how to teach them in your classes. These case studies ( can be presented in the classroom with any device with a browser and internet access. Though we have successfully run some of these case studies in the K-12 environment, this workshop will be targeted to undergraduate education. Come examine DNA sequences to figure out which microbes are hanging out at school, whether Parmesan cheese made in Parma is really different from other Parmesan cheeses, identify fish fraud, and track murder!


Come Create a Journal With Us! Providing an Authentic Research Experience through Publishing

Donald P. French, Oklahoma State University, OK

Recently, Oklahoma State University (OSU) received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to create a course based authentic research experience for undergraduates. To accomplish this, we implemented an undergraduate journal we named, the Journal of Introductory Biology Investigations (JIBI). Students work through a three-week investigation with their TA (mentor) and use each week to perform an experiment, write, and revise a manuscript. In this lab, a students’ TA does not grade them, but instead three anonymous and independent reviewers, who are TAs from other sections of the lab, grade the students. The reviewers evaluate each manuscript using a rubric, scoring each section from unacceptable to excellent. JIBI publishes 15% of the articles submitted in four issues per semester resulting in 21 total issues. This session will focus on describing the process of how one can create a journal of their own, or have us host one for them! We will describe how we use a free open source software called Open Journal Systems (OJS) to create JIBI, facilitate student submissions, offer our expertise to those who are interested in this process, and facilitate the creation of their own journal.


Phylogenetic Analysis by Molecular Similarity

Robert Kosinski, Clemson University, SC

This exercise is used in the introductory biology course for majors at Clemson University. Students first learn how to interpret a phylogram. Then they download a series of protein sequences from a Web site. Each series contains the sequence for a human protein plus some other homologous sequences in organisms progressively less related to humans. There are 17 proteins used, so every pair of students even in a large lab section can use a different one. In the first exercise, the students input their sequences into, which produces a phylogram showing their relative similarity. The students use this to test the hypothesis that similarity of homologous protein sequences increases with taxonomic relatedness. Some proteins show the expected relationship, some show it with a few exceptions, and a few highly-conserved proteins like dynein deviate seriously. In the second exercise, the students use Ensembl to explore the similarities of their protein’s gene over perhaps hundreds of species. This activity usually confirms that more related organisms have more similar DNA.


Measuring Beyond-Biology Student Learning in a Biology Lab

Mark Walvoord, University of Central Oklahoma, OK

Although biology instructors’ goals may include helping students learn biology and general science skills, lab activities may serve to help students grow in other ways. For example, a student working through a Chicken Wing Microbiology lab (Hoefnagels & Walvoord, 2006) may or may not learn good serial dilution techniques, but by explicitly prompting the student to critically reflect on the larger issues of health and believable data in research, she may transform her perspective on food preparation and the validity of news stories. By making larger themes more explicit in biology labs, we can help students, especially non-majors, find more relevancy and motivation to participate. Just as digital badging promotes student acquisition of specific skills (Seary et al., 2017), awarding achievement for students’ transformative growth can encourage their life-long learning. Our campus’ Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR,; Walvoord, 2017), seeks to encourage, measure, and record students’ perspective shifts through campus-wide curricular and co-curricular activities across 6 central tenets. This session will explore how STLR connects student learning in biology lab to other classes, campus activities, and even non-university student experiences, in order to create life-long learners and more employable students. Attendees will brainstorm the larger goals of student growth they could highlight in their labs, along with criteria to use on rubrics to measure these.

3:00-3:50 PM

Site Evaluation of Soils for Land Application of Manure and Septage

Teresa Weglarz, University of Wisconsin – Fox Valley

Participants will use Web Soil Survey (WSS), a website hosted by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Association, to identify a farm field for disposal of animal manure and septage. Septage is the partially treated waste from septic and holding tanks, and portable restrooms. Manure and septage are high in nitrogen and therefore can serve as a valuable fertilizer when land applied, however it must be land applied properly to protect human health and the environment. For example, some residents in Wisconsin have experienced contamination of their wells due to application of manure in areas with shallow groundwater aquifers. Participants will use WSS to identify a farm field in their home state and then evaluate the site for suitability of land application of manure and septage. We will examine the following when evaluating the site: type of soils, depth to bedrock, slope, permeability of soils and frequency of ponding. Importantly, almost any piece of farmland across the United States can be evaluated with WSS. The goal of the activity is to write a professional letter clearly explaining the reasons for supporting or opposing a proposed farm field for land disposal of manure and septage.


A Flexible Framework for Community Diversity Lab Exercises

Hans Lemke and Leo Shapiro, University of Maryland, MD

The goals of this exercise are to get students outside, actively engaged with ecological principles, and to appreciate the diversity of the community around them. However, we want to be able to use the same basic lab in different seasons, or even indoors if necessary. We created a basic framework to study community diversity that can be applied to various settings as the need arises. This activity uses Species Richness, as well as the Shannon-Wiener and Gini-Simpson Indices, to teach students how to not only calculate various measures of diversity, but also how to convert them to a more useful value: the effective number of species. This background material provides a flexible framework that can easily be modified to compare systems which are available and relevant for your class. In this workshop, participants will use this activity to sort fossils, collect data and compare the biodiversity of Maryland Paleocene and Miocene fish faunas.


It Takes Time: Learning Process of Science through an Integrative, Multi-semester Lab Curriculum

Janet Batzli and Michelle Harris, University of Wisconsin – Madison

What does an integrated multi-semester, process of science-based lab curriculum look like? And what do students really learn? In this workshop, we will share goals, outcomes, affordances and challenges of a multi-semester biology core lab curriculum. We will introduce how we organize and scaffold skill development over time, and how we create an agile curriculum that changes with emerging knowledge of the discipline and is scaled to 120 students/semester. We will share key details of our process of science teaching approach, how we integrate science communication and statistics, and sample assessments aimed to foster the development of scientific reasoning over time. This workshop will feature undergraduate students who will describe their experience diving into questions and experimentation on their first day of class and how they progress as scientists over 2-3 semesters. We then welcome an open discussion among participants about this type of multi-semester, developmental curriculum approach at a large university. In addition to sharing our experience, we are eager to learn how ABLE participants assess similar learning goals and outcomes within their institutional context.


Investigating Olfactory Detection Distance with Peanut Butter

Karen McMahon, University of Tulsa, OK

In 2013, researchers proposed a simple olfactory test using peanut butter for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. It was reasoned that there would be a significant decrease in odor detection in the left nostril compared to the right because in patients with Alzheimer’s disease portions of the olfactory cortex are the first areas to exhibit pathology and the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex often exhibits greater degeneration than the right (Stamps et. al, 2013). This study was the inspiration for an olfactory test for the Human Anatomy Laboratory (Biol 2151) which has allowed students to perform hypothesis testing and experimental design. It has also led to discussions of neurological anatomy and pathology. Participants in the workshop will hypothesize whether males or females will have the greater olfactory detection distance and whether there will be a significant difference in olfactory detection distances between the right and left nostrils. Data from the workshop will also be compared to that collected from college and high school students.


Data analysis for biology students – an integrated developmental biology laboratory and R programming

Rabi Murad and Debra Mauzy-Melitz, University of California – Irvine, CA

Data analysis is increasingly gaining importance in biological research and industry careers. Biology students are usually exposed to statistics through a single basic statistics course without any integrated learning and application of these skills in biological contexts. Biology laboratories provide a unique opportunity to reinforce the concepts of statistics and data analysis and help students put these concepts into practice while analyzing their own data. We integrated statistics, and graphing with R programming within a developmental biology laboratory. Concepts from statistics were introduced each week that were relevant to the type of data collected and related R functions were introduced so that the students could analyze their data. Students were introduced to the concepts of p-values, effect size, and statistical power to critically assess their results and draw conclusions. Learning outcome assessments were based on pre-lab quizzes and the analysis section of final lab report. In this workshop, we will provide an overview of the R and statistics lesson plan we used during the 10-week class, our approach to teaching such curriculum, and the challenges we faced in teaching it. We will also provide attendees datasets and content background to simulate what was done in class.


HHMI-supported Undegraduate Research Course

Viknesh Sivanathan, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

HHMI is partnering with 2-year and 4-year institutions across the US to offer undergraduate students an authentic research experience in the context of a Course-based Research Experience (CRE). HHMI is currently offering the Science Education Alliance – Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) CRE, a fully-developed two-semester CRE designed to replace the traditional introductory biology lab sequence. Students participating in SEA-PHAGES begin with isolating bacteriophages from local soil samples, progress through a variety of microbiology techniques to purify and characterize their viruses, isolate genomic phage DNA, and engage in the bioinformatics analysis and annotation of their phage genomes. Because each phage is unique, students name their phages. Collectively, the data generated by the SEA-PHAGES students lead to new insights about the genetic complexity and evolution of bacteriophages, and have uncovered novel mechanisms underlying the interactions between these viruses and their host bacteria. Since 2008, the SEA-PHAGES project has produced over 70 publications, which include peer-reviewed scientific and pedagogical articles, as well as genome announcements. Many of these papers include as co-authors SEA-PHAGES students and faculty. SEA-PHAGES is currently offered at over 100 institutions across the US. In the fall of 2016, 4,133 students, primarily freshmen, participated in the program. If you are interested in offering SEA-PHAGES at your institution, attend this workshop to learn more about the program, and of the support provided by HHMI.


A virtual drawing-board for engaging students in class discussions involving higher-order thinking

Emily Boone & Eli Meir, University of Richmond, VA and SimBiotic Software

One goal of student-centered classrooms is getting students engaged in thinking about biological concepts at a higher level. Instructors often try to do this with discussions, but many students do not participate. To address the engagement problem, we’ve been trying a new platform called Visual Classrooms for the past 3 semesters. Visual Classrooms allows instructors to ask challenging visual questions (such as graphing, drawing, sorting, and concept-maps), and facilitates both online discussions between students about their answers, and in-class discussions with the instructor. We’ve developed activities in Visual Classrooms to accompany simulation-based labs from SimBio. We find that following up the lab activities with one or more Visual Classroom exercises changes the nature of the classroom. Students that were previously quiet become more engaged in classroom discussions and debates. Instructors are able to quickly assess student thinking and correct any misconceptions in real time. Bring your laptop or other device to this mini-workshop. We’ll go through a small portion of SimBio’s Isle Royale lab on population growth and predator-prey dynamics. Then all participants will do accompanying exercises in Visual Classrooms. We’ll talk about how we implemented those in-class, and some of the benefits and challenges we encountered in doing drawing exercises online.


Teaching phylogeny and direction of viral transmission using a real HIV criminal case

Kuei-Chiu Chen, Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar

Teaching phylogenetics quite often faces the challenge in making this topic interesting and relevant. This mini workshop presents the use of a real criminal case described in the original PNAS publication about a physician in Louisiana who deliberately injected his ex-girlfriend with HIV from a patient under his care. In the classroom multiple sequences of an HIV gene obtained from the patient, the ex-girlfriend, and HIV-positive individuals not related to the case were analyzed using a free version of CLC Main Workbench software for the phylogeny of the viral sequences. The results not only indicated the close relationships in the viral gene sequences obtained from the ex-girlfriend and the patient, it also suggested the direction of transmission by using the concept of basal, derived, sister taxa, monophyly and paraphyly in phylogeny interpretation. During the workshop the presenters will demonstrate the use of CLC Main Workbench to analyze HIV gene sequences from GenBank. To conclude, the presenters will read a short excerpt from the original PNAS publication to describe how this case has established a precedent in using phylogenetics to convict a person in the US criminal court.


Stress Physiology Laboratory Exercise with an Ulterior Motive: Helping First Year University Students Deal with Stress

Juan Carlos Lopez, Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Ca

The Department of Biology at Acadia University identified stress as one of the challenges that were hindering student success. We have noticed that although many of the existing services available on campus could help students deal and cope with stress they did not necessarily make use of these services. We developed a laboratory exercise where we measured pulse rate and pressure in the context of fight or flight response and demonstrated how these parameters could be altered under stress. We also made the students find and report on the different campus resources that would help them deal with stress. In this hands-on mini-workshop the participants will learn the rationale behind the laboratory exercise and would experience firsthand the different aspects of the exercise from the prospective of a first year student.


A Module-base Approach to Teaching Animal Behavior

Kathy Winnett-Murray, Hope College, MI

Animal Behavior is a highly integrative discipline that invites collaboration from scholars in diverse fields within the biological and social sciences. Because the study of Animal Behavior offers truly intriguing glimpses into the natural world and excellent opportunities for investigative open-ended learning, it is also extraordinarily effective at engaging students in the scientific process. Four scientists from 3 GLCA colleges (Hope College, Allegheny College, and College of Wooster) are collaborating to develop integrative teaching modules in Animal Behavior that address fundamental conceptual issues and actively engage students in the process of science. We use an explicit case-study approach that focuses on primary research literature and includes opportunities for independent laboratory/field research. Mini workshop participants will be introduced to 2 of the modules currently under development: “Learning” and “Sexual Selection”, and will discuss trial phase results as indicated by student outcomes and products obtained in the first year of curriculum development.