Tag Archives: problem solving

Transgenics in the news: salmon and pigs

23 Aug

This conversation on PRI’s On Point discusses many issues surrounding transgenic salmon, including biological, conservation, and ethical ones. It presents two good case studies for transgenics.

Biochemistry of digesting transgenes & transgene products

Gene flow, fitness effects of transgene on wild populations

Gene flow, conservation issues and suggested solutions

Transgenics: AquaBounty Salmon and the Enviropig

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“Rust never sleeps.”

26 Jul

Escalating Threat of Wheat Rusts

Science Mag editorial

http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1194925

“Last month [6/10], nearly 600 scientists from more than 80 countries convened…  to discuss the world’s most widely planted crop… [and] the rapidly spreading fungal diseases known as wheat rusts…  causing epidemics that require urgent action.

In the 1940s… new plant varieties [were bred] to resist the causative pathogens… But in 1999, a virulent fungal strain (Ug99) was detected… new virulent and aggressive strains of yellow rust fungus (also known as stripe rust) now pose a severe threat to the world’s wheat supply… This epidemic trend may continue because the aggressive strains, which can tolerate higher temperatures, are still evolving [emphasis mine].”

Activity: Present this as a problem, and have students come up with solutions.

Activity: Analyze each others’ solutions for evolutionary explanations. For example, why are fungicides a short-term solution? What are the implications of some solutions for genetic diversity? For example, of replacing wheat with certain varieties. How can humans speed up evolution? Identify the postulate of natural selection we modify to speed up evolution, and explain why other species in nature can’t do this.

Preparation: What guidance and foundational knowledge do they need for this?

Debates: a source of student motivation

26 Jul

Jonatham Schramm, an ecology PhD doing an education post-doc, floored me with his quiet ability to get students discussing GMOs, mass transit, and consequently, biology, with passion.

I also notice students pipe up to correct peers or instructors like at no other time. I’ve seen 40 minute debates cause astonishing 40 minute gaps in Facebook news feeds.

So, debates! A great activity, because it generates motivation and requires self-directed learning at many levels.

Here’s an example question: Should 40 smuggled tomato frogs be returned to Madagascar?

http://news.sciencemag.org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/scienceinsider/2010/07/should-smuggled-madagascar-frogs.html

New category!