BIO – Extra Credit Assignment

Extra Credit Assignment.This document contains descriptions of four research projects (A, B, C and D). These are all actual research projects that were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). They were funded when I wrote up this concept for an extra credit assignment, about a year ago, but I haven’t checked to see if they are still active projects. These descriptions include my explanations (some of which are heavily simplified) and quotes from the award abstract. Please use the descriptions from this document, rather than the actual references. In this document, I deliberately gave these projects goofy titles, making them sound quite trivial.• (A) Reproductive organs in worms• (B) Trees in a faraway forest• (C) Tweaking the shape of bug wings• (D) When grasshoppers don’t have elbow roomDespite the goofy titles that I gave them, all are serious projects intended to advance human knowledge. You’ll have to read the descriptions to appreciate why. All were reviewed by a panel of experts and are (or were) supported by taxpayer-funded grants.Based on the information given in the descriptions, and on information you learned in this class, form an opinion about the relative priority of each project. Decide which of these should be given the highest priority. In other words, if these four projects were under review for being cut, which one would you spare? Also, decide which of these should be given the lowest priority, and thus should be the first project cut, if funds become scarce. You’ll be asked to write two paragraphs.• Paragraph 1: Which project is the highest priority and why? Write a paragraph clearly stating your opinion about which of these projects should have the highest priority, among these four. Clearly stating an underlying rationale for your opinion. Why did you choose it, rather than the other projects, as your highest priority?• Paragraph 2: Which project is the lowest priority and why? Write a paragraph clearly stating your opinion about which of these projects should have the lowest priority, among these four. Clearly stating an underlying rationale for your opinion. Why did you choose it, rather than the other projects?As with all writing assignments in this course, your essay is expected to be in your own words. If you do quote anything, you should put the quoted material in quotation marks. If it is a longer quote, then you may indent the quoted text. Please note that this is not a research assignment. You should be able to get everything you need for this assignment from this document and your textbook.The grading rubric for this assignment is found on page 4 of this document.?RESEARCH PROJECT DESCRIPTIONSA. Reproductive organs in worms.In the grant abstract, Mathies (2012) begins by noting that “how cells acquire their identity is a fundamental question in Developmental Biology”. He also makes the following observation.[This fundamental question is] one that has gained additional importance in the era of stem cell biology. In order to harness the potential of adult stem cells, the factors that give them their unique potential must be understood. This potential is intimately linked with their tissue of origin (Mathies, 2012).Mathies (2012) goes on to state that he is studying the development of the reproductive organs of the worm Caenorhabditis elegans as a “model system”. In other words, by studying the details of the development of these organs, he hopes to learn information that applies to the question of how organ identity is established in general, and not just for the reproductive organs and not just for this species. It is already known that the reproductive organs in C. elegans ultimately originate from two cells in the developing embryo. These two cells are called SGPs. Matheis makes the following observations about the SGPs:The SGPs undergo a series of cell divisions to generate five types of tissues in the female reproductive organ and four tissue types in the male reproductive organ. The potential to generate these particular cell types is imparted to the SGPs at their birth. A combination of molecular, biochemical, and genetic experiments will be used to incorporate newly identified genes into a genetic model for organ identity and to identify critical early regulators of SGP identity.According to Matheis, the project has the following significance.The outcome of this work will be a more complete understanding of the genetic controls of organ identity and multipotency, which has the potential to impact significantly the basic understanding of all stem cells, including human stem cells.B. Trees in a faraway forest.In the grant abstract, Webb & Mathews (2012) make the following observationsThe Indonesian archipelago contains forests with some of the highest local plant diversity on Earth, resulting from a complex geological and environmental history. Timber harvesting and oil palm expansion have drastically reduced the area of lowland forests, threatening this diversity before it has been discovered and understood.This project will pioneer new methods for recording tree species composition and environmental variables on five islands (Borneo, Sulawesi, New Guinea, Seram, Sumbawa), using local students and park rangers and utilizing extensive digital photography, as well as genetic data, all integrated into a “live” biodiversity informatics platform….From these data, the historical processes by which the forests were assembled will be discovered, and this will lead to a greater understanding of how forests will respond to future environmental changes.The informatics resources themselves will aid foresters and conservationists to better know and manage these forests.This project is part of a 10-year effort to digitize and mobilize the scientific information associated with biological specimens held in U.S. research collections (Webb & Mathews, 2012).C. Tweaking the shape of bug wings.In the grant abstract, Houle & Marquez (2012) begin by noting that “the success of genome-sequencing projects highlights how little we know about how the whole organism is put together”. They propose to study this subject using fruit flies, because fruit flies are “one of the few multicellular organisms where the genetic manipulations are easy to make and detailed data can be obtained in large quantities” (Houle & Marquez, 2012). Specifically, they will look at the wings of fruit flies. They will manipulate gene expression and determine the effect of that manipulation on the shape of the insect’s wings.According the Houle & Marquez (2012), the project has the following merits.This project has broad significance for biology, because health and disease in humans, improvement of domesticated plants and animals, and the ability of organisms to adapt, all derive from the relationship between the genome and the organism. This project will provide more detailed data on the genetic basis of variation in the whole organism than has previously been available. The research will provide a procedural model and analytical software which can be used by others to extend such studies to other organisms and that ultimately is applicable to humans and the species we interact with. Many undergraduates and a post-doctoral research will receive training through participation in this project.D. When grasshoppers don’t have elbow room. (Taken from Song, 2013)Locusts cause millions of dollars in agricultural losses throughout the world. The worst of their destruction occurs when they form massive swarms. The swarms migrate, decimating crops in the path of the swarm. However, the factors that cause them to mass and swarm are very poorly understood. Under low local population density, they tend to avoid each other, living solitary lives as grasshoppers, without causing the devastation of locust swarms. In the grant abstract, Song offers the following explanation.At low density, locusts are inconspicuously colored and avoid each other, but at high density, they transform into conspicuously colored individuals that are attracted to each other. When the high-density condition persists, they eventually form swarms. This ability to change in response to density is known as density-dependent phenotypic plasticity. However, it is poorly understood how this phenomenon has evolved, why locusts swarm, and what makes them different from typical grasshoppers. Therefore, the main goal of this project is to unravel the genetic basis of locust swarming using behavioral experiments and cutting-edge molecular techniques (Song, 2013)It should be noted that this project will also involve educational outreach to local K-12 schools. It will also provide opportunities for “authentic research” experiences to undergraduate students, particularly underrepresented minority students. Song also notes that “graduate students supported by this project will be engaged in high-impact research with international and interdisciplinary opportunities” (Song, 2013).GRADING RUBRIC.Part of Assignment Criterion Possible Points Point ValuesF D C B AParagraph: Which project is the highest priority and why? Clear answer given 2 0 to 1.1 1.2 to 1.3 1.4 to 1.5 1.6 to 1.7 1.8 to 2.0Rationale free of mistakes, misunderstandings 3 0 to 1.8 1.8 to 2.0 2.1 to 2.3 2.4 to 2.6 2.7 to 3.0Rationale clearly stated, logical and internally consistent. 3 0 to 1.8 1.8 to 2.0 2.1 to 2.3 2.4 to 2.6 2.7 to 3.0Paragraph: Which project is the lowest priority and why? Clear answer given 2 0 to 1.1 1.2 to 1.3 1.4 to 1.5 1.6 to 1.7 1.8 to 2.0Rationale free of mistakes, misunderstandings 3 0 to 1.8 1.8 to 2.0 2.1 to 2.3 2.4 to 2.6 2.7 to 3.0Rationale clearly stated, logical and internally consistent. 3 0 to 1.8 1.8 to 2.0 2.1 to 2.3 2.4 to 2.6 2.7 to 3.0Overall Assignment. Written in standard, grammatically-correct English, in a clear manner. 4 0 to 2.3 2.4 to 2.7 2.8 to 3.1 3.2 to 3.5 3.6 to 4.0TOTAL 20 REFERENCESHoule, D. & Marquez, E. (2012). The dictionary of genetic effects and the language of morphology. [Award Abstract]. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from, L. (2012). Elucidating the genetic determinants of organ identity using the C. elegans reproductive organs as a model. [Award Abstract]. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from, H. (2013). Evolution of locust swarms and phenotypic plasticity in grasshoppers. [Award Abstract]. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from, C. & Mathews, S. (2012) Biogeographic and ecological diversification of trees across the Indonesian archipelago: developing indigenous leadership in biodiversity informatics. [Award Abstract]. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from

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