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Ithaca, NY, United States

Reed T.E.,University of Washington | Reed T.E.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Reed T.E.,Netherlands Institute of Ecology | Schindler D.E.,University of Washington | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Evolutionary adaptation affects demographic resilience to climate change but few studies have attempted to project changes in selective pressures or quantify impacts of trait responses on population dynamics and extinction risk. We used a novel individual-based model to explore potential evolutionary changes in migration timing and the consequences for population persistence in sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka in the Fraser River, Canada, under scenarios of future climate warming. Adult sockeye salmon are highly sensitive to increases in water temperature during their arduous upriver migration, raising concerns about the fate of these ecologically, culturally, and commercially important fish in a warmer future. Our results suggest that evolution of upriver migration timing could allow these salmon to avoid increasingly frequent stressful temperatures, with the odds of population persistence increasing in proportion to the trait heritability and phenotypic variance. With a simulated 2°C increase in average summer river temperatures by 2100, adult migration timing from the ocean to the river advanced by ~10 days when the heritability was 0.5, while the risk of quasi-extinction was only 17% of that faced by populations with zero evolutionary potential (i.e., heritability fixed at zero). The rates of evolution required to maintain persistence under simulated scenarios of moderate to rapid warming are plausible based on estimated heritabilities and rates of microevolution of timing traits in salmon and related species, although further empirical work is required to assess potential genetic and ecophysiological constraints on phenological adaptation. These results highlight the benefits to salmon management of maintaining evolutionary potential within populations, in addition to conserving key habitats and minimizing additional stressors where possible, as a means to build resilience to ongoing climate change. More generally, they demonstrate the importance and feasibility of considering evolutionary processes, in addition to ecology and demography, when projecting population responses to environmental change.

Agency: Department of Health and Human Services | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.78K | Year: 2005

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Genetics is one of the most fundamental and widely taught areas of biology, and its importance has increased even further with the advent of new technologies such as genome projects and gene chips, as well as recent discoveries of genetic influence in such areas as drug addiction. Yet genetics is an area that many biology students have trouble with. On this contract we will produce a prototype of a simulation program that will allow an instructor to set up a genetic system and give students experiments to perform within that system using common experimental tools. We will also write 2 laboratories within this prototype, one on classical Mendelian genetics and another on using modern tools to find genes affecting susceptibility to drug addiction. We will assess the effectiveness of the software for teaching students, and also survey students who use it to see if the software increases their enthusiasm for genetics research.

Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.85K | Year: 2007

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I research project implements a replacement for the reading materials currently used by most undergraduate students in biology. The replacement will combine smaller reading sections with more active learning components such as simulated experiments. The system will be open to contributions from a wide variety of authors and professionals. Textbooks are currently used in most college biology classes to present material to students, but the learning through textbooks occurs primarily through memorization. This research project will explore new ways of making the take-home assignments of biology students more active, without losing the content needed for understanding biological systems. This research project has the potential to transform one of the pillars of science education, the textbook, from a passive reading instrument to an active learning tool. This could improve learning for the at least one million students per year that take college level biology classes each year in the U.S., and eventually could help improve learning across the sciences.

Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2010

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I research project will attempt to take agent-based simulation models being written for cell biology research and write a new cell biology modeling framework to be used for teaching cell biology at the undergraduate and high school level. Research models in cell biology are too complex and computationally intensive for use in education below the graduate level. However, the visualization and ability to perform realistic experiments inherent in the agent-based modeling approach is ideal for educational uses. This project will combine the scientific expertise of one of the leading centers for cellular models with the educational expertise of one of the leading companies producing biology education software to create a series of simulation-based online teaching modules for undergraduate cell biology classes. Cell and molecular biology are core topics in biology classes at both high school and college levels and are some of the most active fields of biological research, as well as being important for medical fields. Although the topics covered in cell biology are fascinating, they are currently often taught in very passive ways. Active learning approaches are now widely acknowledged to improve students understanding and retention of many scientific concepts. This project will produce a set of active teaching materials for cell biology students, improving their understanding of cellular processes, and thus improving their ability to become our countries future researchers and medical personnel. The materials should be very attractive to an $18 million/year market in cell biology teaching materials.

Abraham J.K.,California State University, Fullerton | Abraham J.K.,SimBiotic Software | Perez K.E.,University of Wisconsin-La Crosse | Downey N.,University of Wisconsin-La Crosse | And 3 more authors.
CBE Life Sciences Education | Year: 2012

Undergraduates commonly harbor alternate conceptions about evolutionary biology; these alternate conceptions often persist, even after intensive instruction, and may influence acceptance of evolution. We interviewed undergraduates to explore their alternate conceptions about macroevolutionary patterns and designed a 2-h lesson plan to present evidence that life has evolved. We identified three alternate conceptions during our interviews: that newly derived traits would be more widespread in extant species than would be ancestral traits, that evolution proceeds solely by anagenesis, and that lineagesmustbecomemorecomplex overtime.Wealso attemptedto measure changesin the alternate conceptions and levels of acceptance of evolutionary theory in biology majors and nonmajors after exposure to the lesson plan. The instrument used to assess understanding had flaws, but our results are suggestive of mixed effects: we found a reduction in the first alternate conception, no change in the second, and reinforcement of the third. We found a small, but significant, increase in undergraduate acceptance of evolutionary theory in two trials of the lesson plan (Cohen's d effect sizes of 0.51 and 0.19). These mixed results offer guidance on how to improve the lesson and show the potential of instructional approaches for influencing acceptance of evolution. © 2012 J. K. Abraham et al.

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