Free Update Workshops from Coldspring Harbor

Here’s info about a number of workshops from the Dolan DNA Learning center at Cold Springs Harbor.  These workshops are great resources and note that two of them will be presented at the Stowers in KC.


The Dolan DNA Learning Center (DNALC) is a pioneer in modern biology
education. Since it’s founding in 1988, more than 8,000 teaching faculty have
received intensive training at DNALC-sponsored workshops conducted in 42
states and several foreign countries. For 2008, we are offering a series of
exciting opportunities covering cancer, neuroscience, RNA interference,
molecular biology, bioinformatics and genomics. For applications and
additional information, please visit our Educator Training website at:

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Delayed Season


In the first week of May of 2003 I took these pictures of Yellow-Lady’s Slipper Orchids.


They were past their prime by May 13th.  Today, I checked on the same orchids–they have not even budded, yet.  The leaves are still unfurling.  It’s truly a late spring for eastern KS.


The Wonderful World of Dung…

For several years I kept a copy of a BBC production that was shown in the early 90’s on the Discovery channel: “The Wonderful World of Dung”. It’s the only video that I would not loan to others in the department–keeping it as a special treat for my students as we wrapped up the year. It’s a fun video that explores the importance of dung in ecosystems, in animal behavior and as an energy source–lot’s of connections. For the past several years I have scoured the internet looking for a legal source so that others could purchase legal copies for presenting to their students. No luck until a request was made to the AP Biology listserv. It seems that one of the AP f0lks has connection in Discovery and made a request to access the show again. If enough folks email discovery with a request, Discovery will either re-show the video or will market it in their store. Here’s the post with instructions:

Hi… so here’s the deal… if you want Discovery Channel to show the video on United Streaming or maybe re-release the video… you’ll need to email them with a request, please send a message to the customer support at Discovery Education at

Hopefully the deluge of requests will spark a response. Thank you to the 30 teachers who emailed me directly.

Robin Groch

Hardy-Weinberg Spreadsheet Model

As part of the KABT thread at the recent KATS KAMP, I argued that we should be asking our students to use spreadsheets to model the concepts of population genetics–in particular Hardy-Weinberg equilibria. I tried to make the case that most of the efforts to model H-W equilibrium in classroom activities such as the AP Biology H-W lab, the M & M’s labs or with beans suffer from too small of sample size (population) or are tedious for the students to explore. On the other hand, working up your own models or having students create their own can be a challenge. The benefits to learning are worth the challenge. In this post, I’ll present the essential parts of an EXCEL spreadsheet that can be used to explore some of the first principles of the effects of population size on drift. This is not presented as the definitive spreadsheet model but rather a rather simplistic model accessible and modifiable by your students. BTW, it takes longer to read this post than it takes to make this relatively simple spreadsheet. I suggest that you bring up EXCEL or some other spreadsheet in a different window and try to create this worksheet as you follow these instructions. Once you’ve mastered this and can creat or modify it at will, then try it out with your students–they can handle this level of difficulty. And when do, they will have an effective tool to explore the basic principles of H-W equilibrium–one that they created.

Here’s what we are shooting for; the basic spreadsheet model for a 2 allele model:

(I’ve recently reviewed this and found that I didn’t mind my p’s and q’s–sorry for the error but the technique is the same.)

Basic Spreadsheet

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Carl Zimmer’s New Book

A Science Writer worth reading – Case

Note from Carl Zimmer;

I just wanted to let everyone know that at long last my sixth book publishes today. It’s called Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life. You’ll recognize it at your local bookstore by the eerie glowing Petri dish on the cover. (And if you prefer Amazon, here’s the link: )
Microcosm is about what it means to be alive. Are there rules that all living things must obey? Is death inevitable? If we rewound the tape of life and let evolution run a second time, would it end up like the original? To explore these questions, I’ve written an (un)natural history of E. coli. Scientists have been earning Nobel Prizes for decades now by poking and prodding this microbe, and their work is coalescing into an extraordinary portrait of a living thing. And today, with engineered E. coli spewing out everything from insulin to jet fuel, the microbe is redefining the boundaries of life itself.
Publisher’s Weekly praises MIcrocosm for its “elegant, even poetic prose,” calling it “essential reading.”
You can find an excerpt at my web site:
Also, if you live around Boston, Chicago, LA, Madison CT, New York, Portland OR, Seattle, or San Francisco, I hope you can come to one of my Microcosm talks. The details of my book tour are here:
Thanks for putting up with a mass mailing. I hope you enjoy the book. (And please pass on the word to anyone who might be interested in it.)
Best wishes,
Carl Zimmer