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BIO100 Group Projects

100 Points total

Groups Formed and Team Contracts due September 13th by 4pm (5 points)
Group Project Proposal due October 2nd by 4pm (30 points)
Group Project Final due November 11th by 4pm (60 points)
Group Dynamics Review due November 11th by 4pm (5 points)

Over the semester, you will be working in groups of maximum 4 students to create a project that relates to one of the
five big themes of this course. This assignment is an opportunity to get more in depth on a topic that is the most
interesting to you in Biology. Starting the first two weeks of the semester, use the discussion boards on Canvas to find
classmates to form groups, and start brainstorming what your project will be. As soon as a group has formed, send me an
e-mail indicating group members full names so that I can make sure everyone finds a group from my end. Group members
will be expected to agree upon and submit a group contract that includes roles assigned to different group members in
order to ensure engagement and participation of everyone. Submit all group member names and team contract to me
by September 13th by 4pm.
Acceptable forms of submitting your group project may include many alternative and creative media types, this project is
an opportunity to get creative with science. This is why it is important to submit a project proposal and get it approved
before getting too far ahead in your project: think about how feasible the proposal is given the time you have, the
resources at hand, and the expenses associated. You can think of this project as a bit of a mock museum diorama or
display that you are using to explain some concept of biology to a general public audience of college-educated adults
(your peers). How can you help someone understand a biology topic using a visual/auditory display that includes all the
complexity of that concept? Your project will certainly be smaller than a museum display, but creating an interactive and
engaging learning tool is the idea behind the project. Any accompanying documents providing information about the
biology of the project must be submitted as well.
A project proposal must be turned in on October 2nd by 4pm.
The finished product must be turned in November 11th by 4pm.

Media types - Acceptable forms of communicating your group project may

include (multiple media types accepted i.e. [model + handout]):
• written paper/booklet,
• video presentation,
• stop-motion animation video from still images,
• PowerPoint or prezi presentation,
• poster or poster board,
• custom web page, https://prezi.com/d-zt2vrt0bkp/tree-of-
• drawing or illustration,
• mock radio broadcast/podcast (listen to a biology episode of “Stuff
you should know” podcast for an example),
• science parody song
(Ex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydqReeTV_vk),
• 3D graphic,
• physical model or diorama…

• Whatever the group decides will meet its goals and best
communicates the information to an audience of college-educated
adults (your peers) and is feasible within the time constraints of the
Theme 1: Evolution of Diverse Life (Chapters 1, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17)

Project Option #1: Geological History - The Timeline

Life has been on earth a very, very long time. So long it is hard for humans to truly appreciate. Your objective
with this project is to develop a visual timeline, or spatial representation of critical events (emergence of life,
plants on land, animals on land, major extinctions, etc.) in Life’s history here on planet Earth.
One of the most important aspects of this project is the consistency of the ‘scale’, where 1 million years of
time/history is consistent between ‘modern’ and ‘ancient’ times. Consider for example the different geological
timelines that were shown in class (i.e. Timescale of Life represented on a 12H clock)

For this project you will need to:

• Create some form of media or invent a layout that could be used to educate your peers (college-educated
adults) about this rich and fascinating history.
• Come up with another original and unique way to represent how long Life has been on Earth relative to
how long the planet has existed.
• Represent how long the Homo genus has been in existence relative to that.

Project Option #2: The Organism “Profile”

Within your groups, decide upon one extant (living) or extinct (dead forever) non-human species: plant, animal,
fungus, single-celled microbe (viruses OK) that you would like to profile. The assignment is to create some
form of media that will educate your peers (college-educated adults) about this organism.

Some of the information that MUST be conveyed in this project includes:

• Significance: Describes the significance of this organism- why it matters enough for you to choose to
profile it… why is it cool?
• A ‘family tree’ of the organism: What do we know about this organism’s ancestry- in evolutionary
terms? We’re talking millions and millions (maybe billions) of years into the fossil record (if there is
one). A lineage diagram would likely be appropriate here (Put the species in the context of its taxonomic
• Evolutionary Adaptations: Does the organism portray a significant evolutionary advancement? What
unique adaptions has (had) populations of this organism evolved to survive in its environment (the
ecosystem where it lives(d))?
o If it is extinct, explain its ‘Achilles heel’ or why the population didn’t “make the cut” into the
modern era.
o If it is extant, explain the present & future outlook for the population and how its adaptations will
facilitate its continued survival.
• Biomimicry: What could humans learn from the organism? Think about useful, practical applications for
what we know about this organism. How could humans use what we know about the organism to create
better materials, technologies, designs, processes, health outcomes, etc.
Theme 2: Ecology of Organisms and Their Environments (Chapters 18, 19, 20)

Project Option #1: Humans as Primary and Secondary Consumers

Select two commonly consumed foods and develop (model) two food chains- 1) for a human eating as a
primary consumer, and 2) for a human eating as a secondary consumer.

Address the following:

• The Food Chain and Trophic levels: Diagram a human’s connections to a ‘whole food’ item that fits
the above requirement. In the diagram, indicate the ‘energy flow’ from the original source of energy to
the human. Use specific descriptors (ex. photosynthesis) and relative proportions to illustrate the
magnitude of energy inputs and energy losses at each trophic level.
• Nutrients: Select a single nutrient from among those discussed in class (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Carbon,
Water) and diagram how that atom (molecule) likely entered the food… that will be eaten by humans.
Be as thorough and detailed as possible.
• Ecological Sustainability: For each of the foods above, discuss how 7 billion humans consuming
more/less of this particular food item would impact our shared global environment.

Project Option #2: Threats to Biodiversity

Examine a current conservation issue or threat to biodiversity, either focused:
1. from the perspective of a specific species, or
2. from the perspective of a whole ecosystem in peril.
Be sure to include what the larger threats are to the ecosystem in which the species lives and how that affects
the species (1) or to briefly profile the most imperiled species existing in that ecosystem (2) depending on the
perspective chosen.

In both cases:
• Describe the different elements of the ecosystem and explain the specific dynamics that act within that
o For example, the cycle of water in a rainforest or in a desert would be two very different topics
and have different consequences for the life that can exist in those ecosystems.
o Or, represent an ecosystem nutrient cycle dynamic, such as explaining the close relationships
existing in a prairie dog town between the different species of prey and predator.
• Discuss what solutions to the current threats exist, what actions may have been taken or are in
consideration (political, legal, …), what threats still remain and if this species rescue has seen any
promising successes if applicable.
Theme 3: Genetic Information and Inheritance (Chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

Project Option #1: Genetic Basis of a Human Disease

Pick a human disease that is known to have a genetic basis. Reasons for the genetic disease could include
anything from simple gene mutation(s), to failures in normal Central Dogma processes, to mistakes made
during cell divisions.
Caution: be careful with your selection - diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, or autism have a known
genetic basis, but they are extremely complex and many details have yet to be discovered. In other words, try to
keep it relatively simple when it comes to mechanisms of the disease.

Some of the information that MUST be conveyed in this project includes:

• Significance of the Disease: effects of, prevalence, affected populations, trends in.
• From DNA code to protein: Diagram how the relevant mutation changes the information flowing from
DNA to protein, and how it ultimately impacts normal function of the protein in the cell (& thus body).
Be sure to illustrate normal for comparison.
• Genetic Counseling: Develop scenarios for the disease that would allow you to clarify for hypothetical
young couples their risk of having an affected offspring. Punnett Squares and other visuals would likely
help here.
o Address whether the disease is dominantly or recessively inherited.
o Address if it is an autosomal or a sex-linked trait (not on the X or Y sex chromosomes).

Project Option #2: Genetic Engineering and Molecular Forensics

A. Genetic Engineering involves moving genes between organisms, or manipulating/editing existing genes, to
our human advantage. How will this ability revolutionize the industrial processes of agriculture, medicine,
manufacturing, etc.?
• Investigate and report on a current or futuristic form of genetic engineering that you see as a potentially
‘disruptive’ force in the way humans go about their daily lives.
• Discuss all facets of the issue- the existing problem and its scope, the organisms and genes involved, and
the realized or projected benefits of the genetic engineering.
• Discuss any potential pitfalls, downsides, or negative impacts that are possible from implementation of
the genetic technology.
• Examples: GMOs, glow in the dark fish, plants that fight pollution, “Designer” babies, …

B. Molecular Forensics: Alternatively apply your knowledge of genetics to the investigation of a crime scene.
• Profile a molecular forensics technology that is currently being employed to solve crimes.
• Give details on how the samples must be collected, what information they contain, how they are
processed, and how that information is then used to solve the case.
• Most importantly, discuss the probability that the unthinkable could happen- could an innocent person
be mistakenly convicted based on the genetic evidence?
• Examples: Forensic toxicology, forensic chemistry, fingerprinting, rape kits, ...
Theme 4: Biomolecules, Cells, and BioEnergy (Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 21)

Project Option #1: BioEnergy Sources

Energy is obviously an important foundation for any industrialized society. We use energy in many forms:
electricity to power devices and manufacture goods, fuel for transportation and agriculture, gas to heat our
living spaces, etc… needless to say we all have an energy ‘footprint’ in some form or another.

How could Biology play a role in the production of that energy today or in the future? The assignment is to
identify a source of energy, or an energy technology that is somehow based in Biology.
• Profile that source of energy: the logistics of harvesting and capturing the energy, how it is converted to
a useable form, the advantages and disadvantages of this source (or technology), the efficiency of the
process, what hurdles need to be surpassed to make it practical, environmental impacts, etc.
• Discuss the biological processes or principles behind the energy source: be sure to apply the relevant
pieces of information that pertain to the material we have covered in class
o for example, discuss the basics of photosynthesis and the molecules involved if considering a
plant-based source of energy.

Project Option #2: Cells are the Fundamental Unit of Life

1. Make a model of your favorite type of cell (Eukaryote, Animal, Plant – NOT Prokaryote) making sure to
illustrate the different components of the cell and explain thoroughly what duties that structure of the
cell carries out.
These components must include:
• Nucleus, ribosomes, rough ER, smooth ER, golgi apparatus, mitochondria, cytoplasm, cell membrane,
cell wall*, chloroplasts*, central vacuole* (if applicable*).
• These must be represented as accurately and detailed as possible, taking care to represent relative size of
different organelles and representing them either as a single organelle or as several organelles where
appropriate (there should only ever be one nucleus, but there are several mitochondria).

2. Next, choose a particular cellular process to explore and demonstrate using your model.
Explain and use your modeled system to demonstrate:
• the sequential steps the cell undergoes to accomplish that process
• Be as detailed as possible with the components that are important to the particular cellular process of
your choice.
• You are welcome to use disease or malfunction of processes as well to help illustrate your process,
potentially using comparison between function and mal-/non-functional process to explain how it works.
• Example processes: Protein synthesis, cellular division, cellular respiration, photosynthesis, apoptosis…
Theme 5: Physiology of the Body (Chapter 23, 24, 25, 26, 29)

Project Option #1: Map of Anatomical Structures or Physiological Systems

Make a representation of one of the physiological systems or anatomical structures from one of the topics we
will not be able to cover in class that you still want to learn about.
Discuss the following in your project:
• What is the purpose of the system and how does it accomplish its life supporting tasks?
• What are the crucial processes (respiration, energy, ATP, water…) that the system utilizes?
• Go into as much detail about the system as possible, labelling all the components of that system, the
function carried out by each part of the system, and how the system works as a whole.
• You can choose to include common diseases or malfunctions of the system to illustrate how the different
components of the system work.

Project Option #2: Unique Physiological Adaptations of Animals

Explore the biological basis of a specialized adaptation to physiology of a selected animal species that exists in
an extreme environment.
• Discuss the similar basis and common ancestry that the system has to other organisms.
• Get into the details of how the system was adapted to function in an extreme context or environment
and/or how it was co-opted to achieve a new function.
• Discuss the specific changes in cellular processes that allowed for this specialized physiological
adaption to emerge and be as successful as it has been (ex: how can cells survive near freezing temps in
• Examples: Some specialized adaptive physiology to consider include mammalian deep sea divers,
hibernation or torpor, extremophile bacteria or archaea, deep sea living creatures, and echolocation,
among many others.

Criteria Excellent Basic Poor

Group and Clear expectations are set between Expectations are set between group Vague expectations of “getting
Team group members, communication plan is members but possibly unclear, may work done” and accomplished
Contract established, timeline for brainstorming be missing important communication “as needed”, or not turned in
(5 points) group proposal is set. details. with all signatures.
Group Clearly and concisely conveys what the The project selected and theme are Very rough group proposal.
Proposals group has chosen for their project clear, the objectives of the group Project idea picked but media
(30 points) option and from which theme. The project are present, but it is type is either not proposed or
objectives of the project are clear, and somewhat unclear how the project is simply the format type and not
the media type being considered is going to come together exactly and what the group envisions doing
quite well flushed out. Meeting dates to lacks an exact plan of action to with it. Strength of final project
work on project are tentatively set, execute the project. May contain cannot really be assessed using
project progress timeline deadlines vague intentions to meet at some the proposal as it is so vague
clearly listed and reasonable, roles are later times. Timeline is present but and not a planned project
assigned to team members. maybe unrealistic or underestimated. proposition.
Final ¨ The most important and relevant ¨ Some of the important biology ¨ Very brief or incorrect
Project biology concepts are clearly concepts are mentioned and with superficial
Submission explained and placed most explained but not all, OR little explanations of the
(60 points) relevantly in the project. Broader attempt to explain it more important biology
implications were well explained concisely was made. Broader concepts behind the
and clearly understood. implications present but weak. project.
¨ The group did a great job of ¨ The project is successful at ¨ Group did not really meet
explaining a difficult biology explaining a difficult biology the project goals, put
concept in a clear and fun way so topic and would be interesting minimal effort into it and
any of their peers would benefit and engaging for any of their the project is minimally
from seeing this project. peers to learn from, though engaging.
¨ Media type selected for the group some slight confusing parts may ¨ Media type used was
project was very well chosen and still exist. chosen first for ease rather
did a great job of explaining the ¨ Media type used was able to than for its effectiveness
biology topic at hand. convey the biology topic in explaining the biology
¨ Quality writing throughout the discussed quite effectively. concept.
project. ¨ Some spelling or grammar ¨ Writing contains
errors. numerous errors and
sentences are hard to
Quality of All reviews of group dynamic and team Group reviews show room for Reviews indicated poor group
Group participation were positive, everyone improvement but overall no ill dynamics, work was clearly
Work / enjoyed working together and felt like feelings between team members as to completed individually and
Group all team members participated equally quality of group dynamics. Working roughly pulled together,
Dynamics to the project, collaboration was fun. with others can be a challenge but workload felt uneven and unfair
Review this experience allowed team to group members.
(individual) members to learn how to collaborate
(5 points) productively.