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Introduction to extinctions and extinction bias

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Overview: Students will be introduced to different factors that might affect extinction risk and will work with data on artiodactyls (even-toed, hoofed mammals, such as cows, sheep, deer, antelope, and giraffes) to investigate some of these hypotheses.
Authors: Price, Samantha
Schaeffer, Peggy
Thanukos, Anna
Instruction Level: high school, AP high school, intro level undergrad biology
Keywords extinction, data analysis, graphing, macroevolution, ecology, conservation
Date Published: 2012-06-15T15:03:34Z
Duration: Ideally 1.5 hours in lab or classroom (with possible extension activity as homework), but could also take the form of 15 minute introduction in lecture, plus homework assignment and 5 minute wrap-up discussion in lecture. Download file includes more information on adapting this activity for large lecture classes.
Requirements: Classroom: <30 students (but modification is available for a large lecture course). Technology: one computer per student group (i.e., 10 for a class of 30), projector, internet access. Software: simple graphing/statistical package (Excel or Google spreadsheets works).
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will understand that extinction risk is affected by both intrinsic (i.e., organismal) and extrinsic factors (e.g., environmental).
  • Students will recognize extinction as a macroevolutionary pattern.
  • Students will recognize that ecological and evolutionary studies often have practical applications.
  • Students will understand that hypotheses are tested by figuring out what expectations are generated by a hypothesis and making observations to find out whether those expectations are borne out.
  • Students will be able to examine a large dataset and select appropriate data for analysis to test a given hypothesis.
  • Students will be able to read and interpret a graph in relation to a hypothesis.
  • Students will understand that data generally exhibit variability and confounding factors.
  • Students will understand that science is ongoing and that investigating one scientific question frequently leads to additional questions to be investigated.
  • Students will understand that scientists look for patterns in their observations and data.
  • Students will understand that raw data must be analyzed and interpreted before we can tell whether a scientific idea is likely to be accurate or inaccurate.
  • Students will understand that analysis of data usually involves putting data into a more easily accessible format (visualization, tabulation, or quantification of qualitative data).
Prerequisite Knowledge: Students should have some familiarity with the software package that will be used. Minimal familiarity with logarithms and regression analysis will be helpful.
Instructor Background: Instructors should be familiar with extinction processes, factors that affect extinction risk, and basic statistics. Please see the Teacher background document in the download file for an introduction to the data set and topics that students will be investigating.
Description of Activity: 1) Introduction to extinction (15 minutes): Introduce students to the topics of background extinction, mass extinction, and extinction bias. If you wish you may, use the slide set available in the download file: the Extinction Bias slide set. Continued in download file . . .
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