Category Archives: science education

Is Natural History Disappearing from Academia?

A new study came out about attitudes towards natural history and the coursework available.

Barrows, Cameron W., Michelle L. Murphy-Mariscal, and Rebecca R. Hernandez. "At a Crossroads: The Nature of Natural History in the Twenty-First Century." BioScience (2016): biw043.

I am copying excerpts from the abstract here:

"The relevance of natural history is challenged and marginalized today more than ever. ... Early-career scientists surveyed agreed that natural history is relevant to science (93%), and approximately 70% believed it “essential” for conducting field-based research; however, 54% felt inadequately trained to teach a natural-history course and would benefit from additional training in natural history (more than 80%). ... Our results indicate a disconnection between the value and relevance of natural history in twenty-first-century ecological science and opportunities for gaining those skills and knowledge through education and training. "

Here is a link to the original article and a discussion about it at the Scientific American blog:

The evolution of antibiotic resistance

Here is one result from this semseter's genetics teaching lab that I wanted to share. The students grew bacteria on a series of gradient media that had increasing concentrations of an antibiotic. At the end of the experiment the bacteria could grow on levels of antibiotic that would have prevented growth before the experiement (which we tested with a control that was genetically identical at the beginning of the experiment and was not exposed to antibiotics). The sucessive generations of bacteria evolved by mutations and selection to tolerate the antibiotic. (One of the goals of this was to show the students an example of evolution in action and illustrate the risks of over-using antibiotics.) We then measuered levels of gene expression for all the genes in the genome and identified which genes had increased their acitvity and which ones had decreased acitivity to allow them to survive (by extracting RNA and hybridizing it to an Affymetrix "GeneChip E. coli Genome 2.0 Array"). Next year I'm planning to have the students sequence some of the genes involved and try to find the precise mutations that have changed gene expression levels.