Genetics

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Genetics

A complete suite of Genetics labs is in the works! Start with our Meiosis Explored tutorial, which includes a section that investigates and elucidates important connections between meiosis and genetics. Continue with Mendelian Pigs, developed as part of an NSF-sponsored study, which lets students practice Mendelian crosses and relate Mendelian to population genetics. If you're looking for great population genetics labs, our EvoBeaker® suite of SimBio Virtual Labs includes several options. Sickle-cell Alleles explores how both selection and drift influence allele frequencies (and also includes a practical application of the Hardy-Weinberg equation) and is very popular in non-majors and introductory level biology courses . Genetic Drift and Bottlenecked Ferrets is a new lab focusing on impacts of small population size on conservation genetics. The other labs listed below are appropriate for upper-level Genetics courses, based on their topics and that they tend to be more open-ended.

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Genetics Modules

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Lab (Workbook): Hardy, Weinberg and Kuru
Uses Kuru disease in New Guinea to teach Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Students discover the equilibrium principle from their observations, and play with violating the assumptions to explore the mechanisms of evolution. Also see the effect of heterozygote advantage. Suitable for both intro bio and advanced courses.
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Level: Intro or Advanced
Key Concepts: Hardy-Weinberg Equation | Punnett squares
Courses: Evolution | Hardy-Weinberg | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Population Genetics
Lab (Tutorial): Mitosis Explored
We promise you have never seen a mitosis tutorial like Mitosis Explored. By integrating stunning live video from diverse organisms, interactive animations, and simulated experiments, Mitosis Explored smashes the "memorize the stages of mitosis" mold. This tutorial uses an inquiry-driven, self-guided approach to extend students' comprehension of the mechanics of this important (but challenging to learn) process. Students are able to tinker with the machinery that drives mitosis, solve puzzles, do experiments, and receive lots of instant feedback to check their own understanding. They also explore how mitosis relates to cancer and other diseases.

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Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Cell Cycle | Cell Division | Mechanics of Mitosis | stages/phases of mitosis
Courses: Cell Biology | Intro Bio: Cell/Molecular | Intro Bio: Non-majors
Reviews:
"It was very easy to understand and VERY user friendly (compared to many virtual lab experiences that I have looked at). I especially liked the areas where you presented students with a disease (i.e., Roberts syndrome) or a drug (i.e. Taxol) that interrupted the process and then had students predict the outcomes or figure out what was being interrupted. "
Jamie Jensen, BYU
Lab (Tutorial): Meiosis Explored
Meiosis Explored offers a refreshing new approach to teach this fascinating and fundamental (but challenging to learn!) process. Using engaging simulated experiments, puzzles, dozens of instant-feedback questions, and illuminating animations and microscopy images, Meiosis Explored investigates the how and why of meiosis rather than focusing on memorization of stages and terminology. This tutorial uses an inquiry-driven, self-directed approach that guides students through the events that take place in meiosis and elucidates why they occur in a particular order. One section makes connections with genetics, focusing on how meiosis produces variation in offspring. Another section focuses on disorders that arise from meiotic errors. The tutorial helps students actually understand the differences and similarities between meiosis and mitosis (and works well with the accompanying Mitosis Explored tutorial).
Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Chromosomal Disorders | Crossing Over | Gamete Formation | Independent Segregation | Stages of meiosis
Courses: Cell Biology | Intro Bio: Cell/Molecular
Lab (Workbook): Sickle-Cell Alleles Demo video available
An interactive simulation of the classic malaria and sickle-cell anemia system is used to explore natural selection and genetic drift. Students examine African villages with different malaria death rates. First they use the Hardy-Weinberg equation to calculate the expected proportion of sickle-cell carriers from HbS and HbA allele frequencies. Then they examine how the allele frequencies change with changes in malaria risk and with different "founder" scenarios. Finally they explore genetic drift without selection by looking at different-sized villages where both diseases have been cured. An optional advanced section allows independent exploration of evolutionary forces using a basic population genetics model with adjustable parameters for selection strength, immigration rate, and population size. This is one of our most popular labs for introductory biology courses.
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Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Genetic Drift | Hardy-Weinberg Equation | Natural Selection
Courses: Evolution | Hardy-Weinberg | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics | Intro Bio: Non-majors | Population Genetics
Reviews:
"We used the Sickle-Cell EcoBeaker™ lab with all 1100 freshman enrolled in our majors biology course in the fall of 2003. The results truly impressed me — I felt like the students had a much stronger grasp of Hardy-Weinberg theory as a result of this interactive exercise and exam scores went up as well. "
Dr. Linda Walters, Central Florida University, Majors Introductory Biology
"I had great success using your EcoBeaker™ labs, Keystone Predator and Sickle-Cell Alleles, in my BIO102 General Biology II class (4 lab sections, 96 students) this spring semester. "
Dr. Daniel Vogt, Plattsburgh State University, General Biology
"This is just a quick email to let you know that the Sickle-cell lab went very well last week!! The TAs thought it went very well and the feedback from number of students I spoke to was also very positive. ...I was very pleased to be able to introduce this topic into a compulsory course here at the Technion in a Faculty that has major emphasis on molecular biology and less on populations, ecology and evolution."
Dr. Debbie Lindell, Technion, Israel
Lab (Workbook): How the Guppy Got Its Spots
Recreate Endler's famous studies of guppy spot brightness in different streams in Trinidad. Students observe the pattern of spot brightness across several pools, then apply classic experimental techniques such as transplants, removals, and behavioral studies to uncover the mechanisms behind the pattern.
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Level: Advanced
Key Concepts: Experimental Design | Natural Selection | Sexual selection
Courses: Evolution | Microevolution
Reviews:
"The guppies lab was a big hit, and I think the chance to design and test hypotheses is suitable for students at all levels. ...I am very happy with your software."
Dr. Maarten Vonhof, Western Michigan University
Lab (Workbook): Mendelian Pigs
This lab connects basic Mendelian genetics to basic population genetics using variation in coat color of pigs, a well-understood trait. Students first conduct crosses to determine the relationships between four different coat color alleles. They are also introduced to the molecular basis for the different alleles and how that leads to their genetics. Then students must use this system to answer population-level questions such as "will a dominant allele always increase in frequency over a recessive allele?". Along the way, they are also introduced to the Hardy-Weinberg equation and why it is useful. This lab was built as part of a larger NSF-funded research project into student misconceptions in genetics and evolution.
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Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Allele | Dominance | Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium | Mendelian Crosses | Mendelian Genetics | Mutation | population genetics | recessive
Courses: Evolution | Genetics | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors
Lab (Workbook): Finches and Evolution (was Islands and Natural Selection)
This laboratory explores how selection can act on two multi-locus traits as the selection regime changes. The example used is beak width and depth of Darwin's finches in wet and dry environments. Students manipulate optimal width and/or depth, selection strengths, correlations between the traits, and other factors that can affect the way selection acts and observe the consequences. In the final sections of the lab students are given two different environments or resources and challenged to manipulate a population so it will split into two subpopulations. This is a nice lab for exploring the consequences of natural selection, using a famous case study.
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Level: Intro or Advanced
Key Concepts: Natural Selection | Speciation
Courses: Evolution | Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics
Lab (Workbook): Genetic Drift and Bottlenecked Ferrets

This lab explores how random genetic drift impacts populations, using a conservation-oriented story about rescuing black-footed ferrets from extinction. Students observe the rate of genetic drift in populations of different sizes and conduct experiments to investigate how and why population size affects changes in genetic diversity across generations. Students become familiar with the meanings of heterozygosity and effective population size (Ne) in the course of their experimentation. The lab culminates with students applying these ideas to black-footed ferrets, a species that experienced a population bottleneck and is currently being managed both for population size and genetic diversity.

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Level: Intro, Sophomore/Junior
Key Concepts: Conservation Genetics | Effective Population Size | Heterozygosity | population bottleneck | random genetic drift
Courses: Conservation Biology | Evolution | Intro Bio: Majors | Intro Bio: Non-majors
Reviews:
"

It was easy to follow and actually kind of fun.

The simulations were easy to follow and fun

It was easy to understand and it allowed me to remain involved and interested.

I liked that it gave me an opportunity to design my own experiment.

The visuals made the concepts easy to follow and I liked running my own experiment at the end.

A fun interactive way to learn about genetic drift

"

Anonymous Students
Lab (Workbook): HIV Clock
When did HIV swing from chimps to humans? Explores the use of RNA sequence changes as a way of measuring time, including discussion of synonymous vs. non-synonymous mutations for detecting selection. At the end, students estimate the age of HIV-1.
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Level: Advanced
Key Concepts: Molecular Clocks | Neutral Evolution
Courses: Evolution | Population Genetics
Reviews:
"I did tell you that I like EvoBeaker very much.  The programs compliment each other really well and I'd love to work with several of them that highlight common ancestor, but I am limited in the time I have. I am going to try to fit in two of them, near the end of the semester.  I think 'Flowers and Trees' with its phylogenetic trees and either Dogs or HIV, to get the sequence comparisons. "
Dr. Robert Hodson, University of Delaware, 600 Student Introductory Biology Class

"We used the Sickle-Cell EcoBeaker lab with all 1100 freshman enrolled in our majors biology course in the fall of 2003. The results truly impressed me—I felt like the students had a much stronger grasp of Hardy-Weinberg theory as a result of this interactive exercise and exam scores went up as well."

Dr. Linda Walters, Central Florida University

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