Can genetic rescue succeed in bringing a population back from the verge of extinction?
How do we use scientific methods to measure and develop solutions for our negative impacts on the world?
Days 1-2 include Polymath Puzzles for warm-ups to get students thinking about Florida panthers and genetic variation. Overall, the lesson is designed using a charismatic species, current research, and human stories to draw students into challenging, interdisciplinary work.
Students learn about genetic rescue, an approach for helping endangered populations recover by introducing closely related individuals from a different population. The lesson is framed around the story of Florida panthers, which are a classic success story for genetic rescue. First, students explore Florida panther recovery through the lens of different stakeholders (ranchers, city-dwellers, and Native Americans), discussing ways that each group may have positive or negative associations with panthers. In Day 2, they then explore different options for helping panther recovery, discussing pros and cons of genetic rescue, captive breeding, or doing nothing. Day 3 provides necessary scaffolding for a deeper dive into genetic rescue by explaining key concepts in the context of Florida panthers. Students also simulate matings to better understand why inbreeding and recessive traits are so problematic in small populations.
In Day 4, go deeper into genetic rescue: what can go wrong, and students provide evidence of their understanding of how all the concepts connect through a concept mapping exercise, interspersed with our carefully crafted explainer videos. A key take-home is that even though genetic rescue worked in Florida panthers, it's quite risky to test out conservation strategies on an endangered species. The concluding task is to analyze a table of organisms and their characteristics to determine which would be good models to study the effectiveness of genetic rescue without risking a rare species' extinction. Day 5 builds on this to reveal Dr. Sarah Fitzpatrick's (this lesson's sponsor) research using Trinidadian guppies as a model of genetic rescue. Students then spend much of the class period analyzing real, paired data collected from Florida panthers and guppies. They are asked to compare and label graphs from both species, and synthesize broader conclusions. The lesson leaves open many options for project-based lessons and independent projects.
Everything you need to teach the lesson in person. Classroom lessons are designed to be led by a teacher, who will actively moderate discussions. Students will record their observations and reflections on printed handouts, as opposed to the remote version, where students respond digitally to embedded questions using Nearpod on their laptop.
*You will need to be logged into a free Google account and click "Use Template" to add files to your Google Drive.
Reviews relevant genetics topics including dominant/recessive alleles and genotype vs. phenotype.
Part 2 is perhaps the densest. Everything builds toward interpreting real data from genetic rescue in Florida panthers and Trinidadian guppies (a model for studying endangered species) in Part 5.
Introduction to the plight of the critically endangered Florida panther.
What Question are we Investigating?
Students interpret a series of images (rebus puzzle) to determine the focus of this lesson.
This type of puzzle is called a rebus.
Brief intro to Genus and species and why scientific names avoid confusion around common names.
What we call a "panther" actually means a lot of different, very distinct types of cat.
A very brief history of how these great cats were hunted and driven to the brink of extinction.
How do people feel about the Florida Panther?
▶"The Return of The Florida Panther" explores the plight of the panther through the lens of different stakeholders (e.g. urbanites, ranchers, and Native Americans).
Students Think+Ink+Share what they noticed/inferred from the video about why different groups like or dislike panthers.
Students reflect on a scene where a man compares the loss of panthers to loss of Master Art Works.
Students spend rest of class period reflecting on different impacts of losing Florida panthers.
Students work with a partner, in a group, or individually, as you prefer to fill out a table with biological, social, and economic impacts caused by the extinction of Florida panthers. After sharing/discussing as a class, they spend the rest of class reflecting individually about different stakeholder perspectives and summarizing take-homes.
Reviews relevant genetics topics including dominant/recessive alleles and genotype vs. phenotype.
Students solve two puzzles which demonstrate the meaning of biological traits and how these translate into genetic variation.
For Polymath Puzzle #1, students look at a series of shapes with different patterns and colors and they must count how many different "traits" can be observed. For puzzle #2, students are shown two groups of traits and they must decide which group exhibits greater variation.
Students go through a quick review of dominant and recessive alleles.
Spend some time going through the slides with students to ensure a solid understanding of dominant and recessive traits. These form the basis of why the Florida Panther is experiencing genetic crisis.
How does population size affect how common recessive traits are?
In this activity, students simulate matings between panthers in a small and a large population. The slides guide students through understanding the 3 traits that we will be studying: kinked tails (a bone defect), a heart defect (where kittens are born with a hole in the septum), and cowlick (a strange pattern in the fur). By simulating matings in a large population (where recessive traits will be less common) and a small population (which parallels inbreeding in endangered populations), students should recognize how population size affects overall health of a species.
Students should work in groups to fill out their worksheets.
Each group should have 2 envelopes with cutouts of 15 panther cards (1 set sampled from a small population; 1 sampled from a big population). Students start by drawing a pair of parents from the small population. They fill in Table 1, practicing with assigning genotypes and phenotypes.
A pair of groups can share a set of envelopes to save you time and paper.
With Steps 7-8, students randomly select alleles to pass on and describe phenotypes of offspring.
If a parent is homozygous (e.g. TT or tt), they only have one allele to pass on. In cases of heterozygous parents (Tt), you can have students flip a coin to determine which allele gets passed on.
Once the worksheet has walked students through the process, they simulate 5 more matings.
First students fill out Table 3, with three matings (parent and offspring genotypes), counting up recessive phenotypes. They then do the same thing in Table 4, drawing cards from the "Big Population," which has many fewer recessive genotypes.
Once groups have finished simulating matings in both populations, they combine data as a class.
You will need to have Table 5 drawn on the board (or use a spreadsheet) to allow groups to record their data.
Look out for errors: small population matings should have many more recessive genotypes than big population matings.
Students copy down other groups' data in Table 5
Students will then calculate the total number of recessive phenotypes out of the total possible to get a percentage. They should then reflect on why the percentage of recessive traits is higher in the small population and why it is important.
Delves into what can (or should) be done to help save the Florida Panther.
Students simulate being on a committee in 1994 that will decide what to do about Florida Panthers.
Divide students into 3 groups and assign each a different option to advocate: let nature run its course; start a captive breeding program; or use genetic rescue. Allow groups 5-10 minutes to brainstorm the pros and cons of their arguments and fill out questions 1 & 2 on the worksheet.
For a large class, you can have multiple sets of 3. (e.g. have students number of 1-3, and have 3 group stations for the front half and 3 group stations for the back half of the room)
Groups then complete a gallery walk to observe what others worked on and finish by returning to their own group and finishing the worksheet based on what they learned.
You can choose whether the gallery walk should be "as a group" or individually paced.
Each group will have the opportunity to share the pros & cons they brainstormed for each committee scenario.
Write or type the pros & cons on three large charts for each scenario based on the students' input. Once all three options have been discussed, each student gets to vote on a course of action. Ask students to provide evidence and reasoning to support their choice.
Slides go over the major pros & cons for each scenario, in case anything was missed.
Ask students to vote on a course of action
Ask them to provide evidence and reasoning to support their choice.
Provides an overview of genetic rescue concepts and how it relates to Florida Panther situation.
Students watch part of ▶"What is genetic rescue, and can we use it to save endangered species?" to review and go deeper into what genetic rescue is and why it is so important for a population to have genetic variation.
Students continue watching ▶"What is genetic rescue, and can we use it to save endangered species?" to learn more about what an extinction vortex is and how populations can be saved from this circumstance.
They are then asked to fill out a concept map to demonstrate understanding of the Extinction Vortex. The slides then walk through a discussion of the logic behind the correct concept map.
Students work in pairs to fill out a scaffolded concept map of Genetic Rescue
Encourage a group to share their answer and the process for figuring it out. Walk through the logic as a class.
Students finish the video, explaining how genetic rescue can go wrong.
Students are asked to study a table of organisms to determine which would be good and which would be bad models to use in studies of genetic rescue.
Students pick a model species to study genetic rescue from the table of options.
Uses real data from a model species to investigate whether genetic rescue is a viable conservation method for Florida Panthers.
Students review the end of ▶"What is genetic rescue, and can we use it to save endangered species?" and go over the previous day's worksheet.
Tortoises are the only bad option listed, as they have a slow generation time and are not common. The other species are all actual models for genetic rescue research.
Dr. Fitzpatrick, whose research forms the basis of this lesson, discusses how she has studied genetic rescue using Trinidadian Guppies (fish) in ▶"Saving a species through genetic rescue: Why we need model organisms".
Students compare and contrast guppies and panthers on their worksheets (Q1-4).
They then switch papers with a partner. They should underline a point they strongly agree with, circle a point they disagree with or think should be explained better, and discuss. Then revise based on the feedback. Students can then share positive/helpful feedback they received.
Slides walk through the primary responses students should have come up with.
Students revisit the genetic rescue concept map and think about what they could measure to assess success.
Specifically, we expect that if genetic rescue is successful:
Students spend the rest of class filling out the worksheet on their own.
They are asked to label graphs from Florida panthers and guppies by carefully studying part of the data table used to generate them.
If students are confused, ask them to notice anything at all about the tables. Do some of the numbers or dates seem to match up with any of the graphs?
Students generate a question from the data and synthesize their findings and observations to make a recommendation.
Given the evidence from Florida panther recovery and the study in Trinidadian guppies, should we conduct a second genetic rescue attempt in the panthers?
This Galactic Polymath Learning Chart illustrates the areas of knowledge covered. This lesson targets Science, but it helps teach national learning standards in 4 subjects: Common Core Math; Common Core ELA; Next Generation Science (NGSS); and College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Social Studies Standards.
In total, there are 21 standards across US grade band(s): 9-12.
Notes on Standards
*Standards are broken down into “Target” and “Connected” categories. Target standards are directly reinforced or taught; connected standards are not fully addressed in the lesson, but connected enough to provide a foundation for teachers to build upon.
Dimension: Disciplinary Core ideas
LS4.B-H1: Natural selection occurs only if there is both (1) variation in the genetic information between organisms in a population and (2) variation in the expression of that genetic information–that is, trait variation–that leads to differences in performance among individuals.
LS4.C-H1: Evolution is a consequence of the interaction of four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for an environment’s limited supply of the resources that individuals need in order to survive and reproduce, and (4) the ensuing proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in that environment.
LS4.C-H5: Species become extinct because they can no longer survive and reproduce in their altered environment. If members cannot adjust to change that is too fast or drastic, the opportunity for the species’ evolution is lost.
Dimension: Measurement, Data, Probability & Statistics
HSS-ID.B.6: Represent data on two quantitative variables on a scatter plot, and describe how the variables are related.
HSS-ID.C.7: Interpret the slope (rate of change) and the intercept (constant term) of a linear model in the context of the data.
W.9-10.3c: Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.
W.9-10.7: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
Dimension: Language, Speaking & Listening
CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Dimension: Science & Engineering Practices
CEDS-H1: Make a quantitative and/or qualitative claim regarding the relationship between dependent and independent variables.
INFO-H5: Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically).
DATA-H5: Evaluate the impact of new data on a working explanation and/or model of a proposed process or system.
ARG-H1: Compare and evaluate competing arguments or design solutions in light of currently accepted explanations, new evidence, limitations (e.g., trade-offs), constraints, and ethical issues.
ARG-H5: Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge, and student-generated evidence.
ARG-H6: Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g., economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).
CEDS-H5: Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.
Dimension: Disciplinary Core ideas
LS4.D-H2: Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus, sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustaining biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value.
Dimension: Cross-Cutting Concepts
SYS-H1: Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.
SYS-H3: Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions–including energy, matter, and information flows– within and between systems at different scales.
SYS-H4: Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.
SPQ-H5: Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).
Matt Wilkins, PhD If you liked this lesson, please help spread the word! Feel free to tag me (@mattwilkinsbio) and GP (@galacticPM) on Twitter with your experiences and student questions! And don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list to hear about what’s coming up next!”
Stephanie Castillo (aka Phuture Doctors)
(Provided Florida panther data and expertise)
(Provided guppy data)
(Florida Panthers & abnormalities in Part 1 Presentations)
(Keira & Neron Jaguars in Part 1 Presentation)
Dec 09, 2021
Dec 12, 2021
Dec 13, 2021
Thanks to Kenzie Bottoms for making the media browser magic!