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Promoting Quantitative Skills in Introductory Classes Using Optimal Foraging Theory and a Model-Assisted Activity

    Author: Sara A. Lombardi1
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    Affiliations: 1: University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1328
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    Abstract:

    TMathematical models help students identify and understand underlying scientific patterns, while improving and reinforcing quantitative skills. However, they are often omitted from introductory undergraduate science classes. As a result, math-heavy theories, like optimal foraging theory, are often omitted from these classes. While optimal foraging easily fits into the curriculum of any class discussing food webs and energy transfer, this theory is often not explained until the graduate level. In this article, I describe a quantitative-rich lesson paired with a hands-on active learning module (or alternatively, a demonstration). This lesson was used in an introductory-level environmental science course but is suited for a range of biology and environmental science classes or laboratories.

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Food web
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References & Citations

1. Crouch C, Fagen AP, Callan JP, Mazur E2004Classroom demonstrations: learning tools or entertainment?Am J Phys72683583810.1119/1.1707018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.1707018
2. Nicholson DT, Chalk C, Funnell WRJ, Daniel SJ2006Can virtual reality improve anatomy education? A randomized controlled study of a computer generated three-dimensional anatomy ear modelMed Educ40111081108710.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02611.x17054617 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02611.x
3. Oh CS, Kim JY, Choe YH2009Learning of cross-sectional anatomy using clay modelsMed Educ24156159
4. Lombardi SA, Hicks RE, Thompson KV, Marbach-Ad G2014Are all hands-on activities equally effective? Effect of using plastic models, organ dissections, and virtual dissections on student learning and perceptionsAdv Physiol Educ381808610.1152/advan.00154.201224585474 http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/advan.00154.2012
5. Stephens DW, Krebs JR1986Foraging theoryPrinceton Univ. PressPrinceton, New Jersey

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2017-12-15
2018-05-26

Abstract:

TMathematical models help students identify and understand underlying scientific patterns, while improving and reinforcing quantitative skills. However, they are often omitted from introductory undergraduate science classes. As a result, math-heavy theories, like optimal foraging theory, are often omitted from these classes. While optimal foraging easily fits into the curriculum of any class discussing food webs and energy transfer, this theory is often not explained until the graduate level. In this article, I describe a quantitative-rich lesson paired with a hands-on active learning module (or alternatively, a demonstration). This lesson was used in an introductory-level environmental science course but is suited for a range of biology and environmental science classes or laboratories.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Equations and their descriptions. A) The three steps needed for successful hunting: encountering, attacking, and capturing a potential prey. During the presentation, I define and describe each term in an ecological and mathematical context. I emphasize that failure at one stage equates failure to ingest the prey, but success at one stage does not guarantee successful ingestion. B) Equation of the rate of energy gain of the predator for an ingested prey. I present the mathematical equation, term by term, and the associated definitions, and then summarize the equation. C) Comparison illustrating that the decision of whether or not to attack a new prey item is a function of the comparative energy gain between the new prey and the predator’s current diet. In the lecture, I emphasize that the decision to attack one prey item may differ between individuals or across time, depending on the current state of the organism. A prey that can yield moderate energy gains will be attacked when encountered if the predator has been consuming low energy items, but a moderate-energy prey item will not be attacked if the predator’s current diet primarily consists of high-energy-gain foods.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1328
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Activity set up. A) Set up for student B, with 30 M&Ms placed on a plate. B) Set up for student C, with 30 M&Ms each contained within a plastic egg. C) Set up for student D, with 15 M&Ms on the plate and 15 individually contained within plastic eggs.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2017 vol. 18 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i3.1328
Download as Powerpoint

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