Title

Version 0.2.0 (Updated Dec 13, 2021)

Genetic Rescue

Preventing extinction through gene flow

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1. Overview

Target Subject:

Science

Grades:

9-12

Estimated Time:

5 x 45 min

Driving question(s):

Can genetic rescue succeed in bringing a population back from the verge of extinction?

Essential question(s):

How do we use scientific methods to measure and develop solutions for our negative impacts on the world?

Learning Objectives (Students Will Be Able To):

  1. Provide examples of variation in genes, traits, and individual survival, and why each is important for a species to persist and evolve.
  2. Summarize how human activities fragment animal populations and how habitat fragmentation limits gene flow, reducing genetic variation.
  3. Predict how increasing genetic variation by introducing new individuals (i.e. by conducting genetic rescue) will impact population size.
  4. Create a logic model showing how genetic rescue occurs; i.e. how the introduction of new individuals to a small, inbred population on the verge of extinction provides needed genetic variation for the population to survive and recover.
  5. Demonstrate understanding of how reduction in both population size and genetic variation in endangered species lead to the "extinction vortex"—the increasing likelihood of small populations to blink out due to low population size and recessive genetics from inbreeding.
  6. Propose a model organism to use for research on species that are endangered or infeasible to study.
  7. Interpret scatter plot data from a model organism (Trinidadian guppies) and compare to related data in an endangered species (Florida panthers) to draw broader conclusions about the effectiveness of genetic rescue.
  8. Assess the potential risks and benefits of genetic rescue for a particular species, and propose a course of action.

Lesson Hooks:

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.

Keywords:
genetic rescuegeneticsconservationfishcatnatural selectionvariationevolutionextinction

Lesson Description

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.

2. Lesson Preview

"Teach it in 15" Quick Prep
  1. Watch Video(s) for Part 1
  2. Look over Background
  3. Look over Procedure
  4. Teach it!
  5. Repeat for each part and tell us what you think.

3. Teaching Materials

*You will need to be logged into a free Google account and click "Use Template" to add files to your Google Drive.

Resources needed:
5 Digital Items
Presentation x 5 Parts
11 Printed Items
Teacher Worksheet x 5 Parts
Student Worksheet x 5 Parts
(For Part 2) "Big" and "Small" Population Cards (1 set per group)
6 Other Requirements
(For Part 2) Envelopes (i.e. 1 for "Big" and another for "Small" Population cards for each group)
(For Part 2) Scissors (For cutting out cards)
Teacher's computer
Internet Connection
Projector
Set of Speakers
Click grade band to see materials

Introduction to the plight of the critically endangered Florida panther.

  1. Presentation

  2. Part 1 Student Worksheet

  3. Part 1 Teacher Worksheet

Reviews relevant genetics topics including dominant/recessive alleles and genotype vs. phenotype.

  1. Presentation

  2. Part 2 Student Worksheet

  3. Part 2 Teacher Worksheet

  4. Part 2 Panther Genotype Cards for Hands On Simulation of Genetics of Inbreeding in Panthers

Delves into what can (or should) be done to help save the Florida Panther.

  1. Presentation

  2. Part 3 Student Worksheet

  3. Part 3 Teacher Worksheet

Provides an overview of genetic rescue concepts and how it relates to Florida Panther situation.

  1. Presentation

  2. Part 4 Student Worksheet

  3. Part 4 Teacher Worksheet

Uses real data from a model species to investigate whether genetic rescue is a viable conservation method for Florida Panthers.

  1. Presentation

  2. Part 5 Student Worksheet

  3. Part 5 Teacher Worksheet

4. Procedure

5 x 45 min

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.

Warm-Up
0510152025303540455 min.
1
Polymath Puzzle #1

What Question are we Investigating?

Students interpret a series of images (rebus puzzle) to determine the focus of this lesson.

Vocab
  • subspecies: a distinct population of a species, typically due to geographic isolation

This type of puzzle is called a rebus.

Meet the Florida Panther
0510152025303540455 min.
2
Scientific vs. Common Names

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.

Vocab
  • scientific name: the Genus + species of an organism
  • common name: a local name for an organism
  • panther: can refer to 1) a dark variety of a jaguar or leopard or 2) the Florida subspecies of the Puma or mountain lion
3
Florida Panther history

A very brief history of how these great cats were hunted and driven to the brink of extinction.

Exploring Panther Perspectives
05101520253035404515 min.
4
Watch Video 1

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).

5
Reflection + Discussion

Students Think+Ink+Share what they noticed/inferred from the video about why different groups like or dislike panthers.

6
Let's review a scene

Students reflect on a scene where a man compares the loss of panthers to loss of Master Art Works.

What Happens if we Lose the Florida Panther?
05101520253035404520 min.
7
On the Brink of Extinction

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.

Vocab
  • inbred: the product of mating with closely related individuals; often results in individuals with genetic disorders
  • inbreeding: a condition that occurs when genetically closely related animals mate, especially over multiple generations
Warm-Up
0510152025303540455 min.
1
Polymath Puzzles Set #2

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.

Vocab
  • trait: a specific characteristic of an organism
  • variation: any difference in organisms caused by genetic and/or environmental differences
Genetics Mini-Review: Unhealthy Cats
05101520253035404520 min.
2
Genetics Mini-Review

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.

Vocab
  • nucleotide: one of 4 chemical building blocks of DNA; abbreviated as A, C, G, and T
  • allele: different forms of a gene
  • dominant: when a trait is still functional even if one allele is defective
  • recessive: when a trait is only expressed when an individual has two copies of the allele
  • genotype: the combination of alleles an individual has for a set of genes
  • phenotype: the combined effect of genes to produce a trait
Recessive Traits Activity
05101520253035404520 min.
3
Understanding Inbreeding

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.

Vocab
  • inbreeding: a condition that occurs when genetically closely related animals mate, especially over multiple generations
4
Small Population Simulations

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.

5
Small Population Mating

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.

6
Learn, Practice, Repeat

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.

7
Combine Data

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.

8
Independent Analysis

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.

Role Play: What to do about the Florida Panther?
05101520253035404525 min.
1
Brainstorming

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.

Vocab
  • captive breeding: breeding in zoos and aquariums of plants or animals to maintain populations

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)

2
Gallery Walk

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.

Share Out! Pros/Cons of Saving the Florida Panther
05101520253035404520 min.
3
Class Discussion

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.

If you want to bring in some technology, you could add (or ask students to add) observations to a Google Jamboard or Padlet.

4
Scaffolding

Slides go over the major pros & cons for each scenario, in case anything was missed.

5
Vote!

Ask students to vote on a course of action

Ask them to provide evidence and reasoning to support their choice.

6
Students Finish Worksheet on their Own
Genetic Rescue Deep Dive
05101520253035404510 min.
1
Overview

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.

Vocab
  • habitat fragmentation: the process of breaking a habitat up into disconnected pieces
05101520253035404520 min.
2
The Extinction Vortex

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.

Vocab
  • extinction: the dying out of a species due to environmental or evolutionary changes
  • concept map: a diagram that shows how different inputs or parts of a system affect each other
3
Genetic Rescue Concept Mapping

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.

Vocab
  • genetic rescue: introducing individuals with new genetic variation to help a population recover from inbreeding
4
Pivot to Model Organisms

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.

Vocab
  • model organism: a species used to study a problem when it is difficult or impossible to study in a target species
Independent Reflection
05101520253035404515 min.
5
Students Finish Worksheet on their Own

Students pick a model species to study genetic rescue from the table of options.

Review
0510152025303540455 min.
1
Genetic Rescue in Action

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. Sarah Fitzpatrick Talks About her Research
0510152025303540455 min.
2
Hear it from a Scientist!

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".

Quick Activity
05101520253035404515 min.
3
Instant Peer Review

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.

4
Scaffolding

Slides walk through the primary responses students should have come up with.

Analyzing Real Data
05101520253035404520 min.
5
Developing Predictions

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:

  1. genetic variation should increase and
  2. as a result population size should increase (because of higher survival and reproduction)
6
Independent Analysis

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?

7
Reflection

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?

6. Standards

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.

Learning Standards

Note: Click on any standardfor details on how the lesson aligns to it.

Target Standard(s)

Science - NGSS

Dimension: Disciplinary Core ideas

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students use information to complete a logic model depicting genetic rescue.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students participate in a genotype and phenotype activity and discuss the changes they see in Florida panther offspring.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students explore the extinction vortext concept by reviewing and comparing multiple graphs that show changes in population size (and genetic variation) over time.

Connected Standard(s)

Dimension: Measurement, Data, Probability & Statistics

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will interpret population data from Trinidadian guppies and use their findings to explain how it models changes in the Florida Panther population after genetic rescue has occured.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will interpret population data from Trinidadian guppies and use their findings to explain how it models changes in the Florida Panther population after genetic rescue has occured.

Dimension: Writing

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students use information to complete a logic model depicting genetic rescue.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students take part in a role-playing activity where they consider three options for how to address the issues with Florida Panthers and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Dimension: Language, Speaking & Listening

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students integrate graphs, video, and classroom discussions and reflections to enhance understanding of genetic rescue.

Dimension: Science & Engineering Practices

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students interpret graphs depicting Trinidadian guppies' population size and genetic variation over time to determine success of genetic rescue treatment.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will complete a worksheet that asks them to identify a graph that depicts a population undergoing an extinction vortex and explain their choice by comparing it to another graph.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will interpret population data from Trinidadian guppies and use their findings to explain how it models changes in the Florida Panther population after genetic rescue has occured.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students take part in a role-playing activity where they consider three options for how to address the issues with Florida Panthers and discuss the pros and cons of each.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students take part in a role-playing activity where they consider three options for how to address the issues with Florida Panthers and discuss the pros and cons of each.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students take part in a role-playing activity where they consider three options for how to address the issues with Florida Panthers and discuss the pros and cons of each.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students take part in a role-playing activity where they consider three options for how to address the issues with Florida Panthers and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Dimension: Disciplinary Core ideas

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students watch videos to learn about the benefits provided by a healthy Florida Panther population and participate in a Think-Pair-Share to discuss the potential impacts of losing Florida Panthers.

Dimension: Cross-Cutting Concepts

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will evaluate the characteristics of a variety of commonly used model organisms and select the ones that best fit for studying the problem in Florida panthers
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will evaluate the characteristics of a variety of commonly used model organisms and select the ones that best fit for studying the problem in Florida panthers.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will evaluate the characteristics of a variety of commonly used model organisms and select the ones that best fit for studying the problem in Florida panthers.
How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students will interpret population data from Trinidadian guppies and use their findings to explain how it models changes in the Florida Panther population after genetic rescue has occured.

Dimension: Civics, Economics, Geography & History

How does the lesson align to this standard?
  • Students watch a video that highlights how human expansion and development has contributed to fragmentation and they use a worksheet to reflect on how this process has contributed to the issues seen in Florida panthers.

7. Feedback

Got suggestions or found a bug?

We want to know what you think!

Please share your thoughts with this form. We'll use your feedback to improve this and future lessons!

8. Credits

Lead Author and Creative Director:

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!”

Sponsor and Producer

Sarah Fitzpatrick, PhD

Animation and Video Editing:

Audrey Serene Barns

Narration and Scoring:

Stephanie Castillo (aka Phuture Doctors)

Education Consultants:

Peer Reviewer + Data Provider

(Provided Florida panther data and expertise)

Madelon van de Kerk, PhD
Assistant Professor
Western Colorado University
Gunnison, Colorado, USA

Data Provider

(Provided guppy data)

Sarah Fitzpatrick, PhD
Assistant Professor
W.K. Kellogg Biological Station
Hickory Corners, MI

Provided Images of Florida Panthers

(Florida Panthers & abnormalities in Part 1 Presentations)

Provided Photo of Other "Panthers"

(Keira & Neron Jaguars in Part 1 Presentation)

Alma Leaper
Lead Photographer
The Big Cat Sanctuary
UK

Major Release Beta

0.1.0 Initial lesson build.

Dec 09, 2021

0.1.1 Fixed version number issue & added Video Links to Teach it in 15 Quick Prep

Dec 12, 2021

0.2.0 Updated data & added lesson media browser

Dec 13, 2021

Acknowledgments:

Thanks to Kenzie Bottoms for making the media browser magic!