Great Antlion resources

AntlionThose of you who have followed this blog probably know of my long time fascination with antlions.  If you have a ready source of them, they make a great organism to inspire student generated research.  Today, I’ve run across two excellent photo resources on antlions.  Alex Wild’s Mymercos Blog has exceptional images of an antlion in action and in the comments to Alex’s amazing photos you can find a link to Mikko Kolkkala’s images of an antlion parasatoid.  Check them out you’ll be amazed–maybe you’ll even go to the trouble of collecting antlions this summer for the first week of school next year.

Microarrays MediaBook

While learning about those involved in developing the Synthetic Biology survey that some of you may have taken (June 8th post), I serendipitously navigated to a page at Davidson College that made me aware of the Microarrays MediaBook educational website.  Here is what I read, including the link that I chose to follow…

Another of Malcolm Campbell’s efforts, a multimedia presentation entitled “MicroArrays MediaBook,” has received the international Pirelli Award as the “Best Work for Educational Institutions.” Created with collaborators at UNC Chapel Hill, the MicroArrays MediaBook shows students how microarrays are created and analyzed, and applications of the technology. Its graphic sophistication commands attention, and students can test their understanding of the material with questions for each section.

Here is a shot of the homepage with their extensive internal links.  I agree that the “graphic sophistication commands attention”.  I’m still checking it all out and already know that if you touch upon Microarrays in your classroom you should spend sometime this summer checking it out as well…

MicroarrayMediaBook

http://gcat.davidson.edu/Pirelli/index.htm

Here is an paper activity that I have used to teach about Microarrays, a link to the article that I use with the activity, although I think I will be modifying things so that students can use the MediaBook resources instead.  For those beyond a paper activity, Fotodyne has microarray kits for exploring smoking and plant photobiology, and the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT) has a wealth of information and resources for developing authentic microarrays (also developed by Malcolm Campbell).

As my father always says, enjoy!

Phagehunting Success!

PhageLogo

Sure we do! I am proud to announce that Brenda Bott from Shawnee Mission West and Jeff Witters from Olathe South successfully GOT PHAGE in Kansas! Congratulations!

Below, you can see images of the subcultured plaques – the circular fields where their viruses have infected, replicated, and lysed small portions of the lawn of mycobacterium host.

tallgrassmm

tallgrassmm

IsaacEli

IsaacEli

Brenda and Jeff were among the twenty participants in the Stowers Institute Phagehunting Workshop in early May facilitated by Dr. Arcady Mushegian at the institute and run by Dr. Deborah Jacobs-Sera from Hatfull Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh (Phagehunting Wiki site)

Brenda and Jeff named their novel phages “tallgrassmm” and “IsaacEli”, respectively, and here are their personal explanations for their choices…

“The name indicates the nature/source of the soil sample in which the phage was found” – Brenda

“Isaac helped me get the samples, mostly by “falling” into the mud whenever he got the chance. My boys may or may not be thrilled that I named a virus after them when they’re old enough to understand, but I figured I better include both. Can you imagine the fights if I didn’t!” – Jeff

So, congratulations again to Brenda and Jeff! And thanks to Arcady and Stowers and Deborah and the University of Pittsburgh for bringing this educational opportunity to the Kansas City area!

New website for Baker Wetlands

Sunset Just wanted to spread the word that Baker Wetlands on the south edge of Lawrence has a new website, thanks to Roger Boyd and others. As one of the best and most easily accessed northeast KS wetland sites it is a real testament to the power of restoring hydrology to former cornfields (“past wholesale anthropogenic modification,” in the parlance) to allow natural communities to reestablish. Whatever you may know about the years (decades?) of the variety of controversies centered on the wetlands, the restoration of the big chunks of newly acquired mitigation land will be fascinating to watch unfold. If you haven’t been by the Wetlands for a while, get out there while the restoration area is still fairly bare, just so you have a “time zero” reference for later visits in years to come. Few other places in this part of the state offer least bitterns and other goodies within such a short walk from the car.

The website has a detailed FAQ section that illuminates some of the history of the site and its controversies, great maps of the present site, various species lists, tons of other info about the place, as well as some really interesting photo albums with beautiful photographs. Check it out!

Baker Wetlands

Jeff Witters

Synthetic Biology Survey

Researchers at Davidson College are looking to learn high school teachers’ perceptions of synthetic biology. If you are a high school biology teacher interested in taking part in a 10 minute survey go to:

http://snap.davidson.edu/sasnell/HS_SynthBio/hs_synth_bio.htm

From their website:

The purpose of this study is to learn more about what high school teachers think about synthetic biology. You may or may not know anything at all about synthetic biology. Either way, it is important that you respond to our survey. Your response will contribute valuable information to the study. Through this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of what high school teachers and administrators know about synthetic biology and why schools choose to offer or not offer synthetic biology as part of their curriculum. In doing so, we hope to identify the areas where greater support and resources are needed in order to promote synthetic biology in a high school curriculum.

Spring Fieldtrip to Cheyenne Bottoms

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KABTers Birding

KABTers Birding

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Getting the perfect picture!

The KABT annual spring fieldtrip is simply an opportunity to learn and interact with fellow biology teachers.  I have learned more biology than you can imagine from simply being around and listening to others!  I cannot overemphasize the importance of learning with others.  You build up your expertise, you build up your fellow biology teachers expertise and that is the kind of experience that will impact your teaching.  The field trip is NOT a test of what you do and don’t know in the outdoors, rather it is an opportunity to absorb the knowledge of those that can identify (with maybe 90% accuracy?).  I am the first to admit that I cannot name, identify, or give an natural history of quite few flora and fauna, but I attend these trips to learn (and also make fun of some of the older guys). Although as most of you know, its not necessarily what you learn but how you learn that builds your lifelong memories.  I simply wish every biology teacher could experience just one of these special trips.  You talk about school, kids, technology, and everything else, but you really get to absorb the thoughts and opinions of your peers.  I know that I will always value the thoughts and opinions of my fellow biology teachers.  This past Saturday, June 6, 2009, we met at the Wetlands Education building at Cheyenne  Bottoms.  After a great tour of the education center that included various displays, a teaching classroom, and an auditorium we carpooled over to the lookout tower in Cheyenne Bottoms.  After eating we took a driving tour that included numerous stops along the way.  Although I do not have a comprehensive list of species we encountered I do know that I saw birds much closer than I have in the past, but beyond that I had an opportunity to commune with nature with some other nature lovers. By the way, it appears that there is an inverse relationship between the quality of a biology teachers’ joke and their years of experience (personal observation during this trip).  I hope all KABTers and any biology teachers that wish to will try to attend at lease one of these awe inspiring journeys around Kansas!

A couple of picts from Charlotte:KABTers

More KABTers

Yellow Headed Blackbird

Yellow Headed Blackbird

birdwatching

birdwatching

A view of Cheyenne Bottoms from Lookout Point

A view of Cheyenne Bottoms from Lookout Point

Observing Crayfish

Observing Crayfish

Milkweeds & radiotagging Monarchs

Chip Taylor and crew got some blog time for their recent foray into radiotracking monarch butterflies for short distances. There are some great photos in the blog, and apparently Nat Geo was filming the project for a later program.

http://glimpsesoflawrence.blogspot.com/2009/05/radio-tagging-monarch-butterflies.html

Keep an eye on those milkweed patches. Not only will you soon find those aposematically colored caterpillars munching on the toxic leaves, but the plants are one of the better places to see ant/aphid mutualism at work. I’ve seen several species of ants tending their aphid flocks in just the last week. Once the inflorescence opens, the milkweed patches become pollinator magnets. If I might dare improve upon the Bard, that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet, but never so fine as a milkweed. So, teachers on summer vacation, don’t forget to stop and smell the milkweeds!

Jeff Witters