Friday, December 3, 2010

Rosalind Franklin - Dark Lady of DNA

Here's the link to the NOVA program telling the story of Rosalind Franklin's key contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Secret of Photo 51. Watson, Crick and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize for the structure of DNA in 1962. Rosalind Franklin died prematurely in 1958, should she have received the Nobel Prize along with Watson, Crick and Wilkins?

Monday, November 29, 2010

What should you know after each Human Genetics presentation?

What disease/condition is the group presenting on?

How is this disease transmitted/inherited?

How does the condition manifest in people? (Phenotypic expression)

What research is currently being done? (Mention several areas of study, go into some detail on one study)

What treatments or changes in life-style are currently used/recommended?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Evoution of Earth's Atmosphere

From Science Daily:
The Earth is 4,500 million years old. Microbial life has probably thrived in the oceans for most of that time. However, until about 2,300 million years ago, the atmosphere contained only traces of oxygen. During that time, some microbes in the oceans likely produced oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. But the quantities they produced were insufficient to accumulate much in the atmosphere and oceans. The situation changed with the "Great Oxidation Event," 2,300 million years ago. Oxygen levels rose again around 550 million years ago. The first animals appear in the fossil record at this time, marking the beginning of an era that geologists call the "Phanerozoic."
Check out the article!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Osmosis Lab Data

Click here for all class data for osmosis lab.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Biologists on the verge of creating a new form of life!

As we begin the study of cells, read this interesting article. In particular, watch the video part way down the page - it's really cool, and relates to the possible origins of the first cells.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New study tracks human evolution - track your Y chromosomes guys

This is an interesting new look at human evolution - much previous work has focused on sequencing mitochondrial DNA, which is strictly maternally derived (the sperm doesn't donate mitochondria when it fertilizes the egg). This new study looks at the question of human origins from the Y chromosome point of view. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hybrids May Thrive Where Parents Fear to Tread

There was a great article in NY Times on Tuesday about Hybridization of different species.
The zorse (zebra-horse) above, and the wholphin and liger below. Thanks to Leah for bringing it in!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Of elephants and man....

We used the diagram above, showing the evolutionary lineage of modern elephants, as an example of how the fossil record can be used to trace evolutionary relationships through time. Here is a short article concerning this particular diagram that you might find interesting. It essentially says that humans and chimps split from each other at the same time as modern elephants and mammoths, supporting a hypothesis of rapid speciation, presumably associated with dramatic environmental change, in Africa.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Welcome Young Biologists! (assignment for Jonna's classes)

Hi everyone! Please take just a minute to tell me and any classmates who might read your post a little bit about yourself - what are your passions, interests, likes and dislikes...anything to help me get to know you all a little bit.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Learning is a PROCESS, NOT an EVENT!

Welcome to CPS Biology! We are genuinely looking forward to spending a fun and exciting year with all of you!

Though many people don't appreciate this, Biology is the most complex of scientific disciplines. Biological entities are marvels of complexity - they are composed of large, complicated molecules, some of which have amazing characteristics, such as the ability to replicate themselves! These complex molecules then come together in any of millions of possible combinations to undergo chemical reactions that we recognize as life processes. Because of this immense complexity, it's been a bigger challenge for biologists to find general principles to organize and simplify their subject than chemists and physicists. However, we do have one overarching idea that synthesizes all of the complexity we find in the biological world, and gives us a framework for making sense of it all. This is the modern Theory of Evolution, stemming largely from the work of Charles Darwin during the middle of the 19th century. We will begin the semester with a consideration of Darwin's ideas to set the stage for the rest of the semester. At the end of the term, we will come back to the topic of evolution from a more modern perspective, armed with information about molecular genetics that were not available to Darwin and other earlier biologists.

Because Biology is so complex, it takes a lot of effort to really "get it." And we expect you to get it! We have crafted this course to encourage you to really think. None of the topics we consider can really be understood without reference to every other topic we discuss, so you will need to constantly reconsider, recalibrate, reorganize what you think you know, building an ever more complete understanding of how amazing living things really are! We know from experience that you cannot do this if you simply show up in class, listen to us talk for 45 minutes, and then forget about it all until the next day. We can't possibly do more than skim the tip of the iceberg during class, there simply isn't time. We can give you structure, walk you through the most complicated ideas, and supply you with some additional resources. But you'll need to do a lot more on your own to really do well and to really build a solid foundation of understanding. You'll need to do your reading religiously, and while you are doing it, have your notes out, think about what we discussed in class. When a question pops into your mind about what we've been talking about, jump online and see what Wiki or other references can tell you about the answers. Read over the articles and other resources we provide you with, and ponder how they tie in with class material. Talk to us! Talk to each other! Explain things to your parents! While the complexity of biology makes it challenging, the good news is, it's so completely relevant to your life. The processes we discuss this semester are literally those that keep you alive from minute to minute. What could possibly be more interesting and exciting?

So, your motto for this class is "Learning is a Process, Not an Event!" Don't treat this class as a daily "event" that you show up for and then forget about. Make it a part of how you look at the world. It isn't hard!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Air Force Treating Wounds With Lasers and Nanotech

Forget stitches and old-school sutures. The Air Force is funding scientists who are using nano-technology and lasers to seal up wounds at a molecular level.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010



Create a Wiki account:

Go to and create an account for your group. Name the account “Period_RespiratoryCase1” (for example) so we know what case study is being presented. Simply follow the on-screen directions to build your site.

Wiki Permission = Protected
Wiki Type - K12 Education
Wiki Name = “P3Circulatory1” or whatever
Manage Wiki - Invite your group members(need email account) + teacher
Build your site!

What to include in your Wiki:

The purpose of your Wiki is to educate other students in the class about your case study. You can assume that your audience knows the basics about how the circulatory and respiratory systems work, but you need to clearly explain all of the specific aspects of your case study. Be sure to include:

1. An introduction to your patient (age, sex, symptoms, whatever history is relevant)
2. An overview of the basic issue/condition/problem faced by your patient
3. A discussion of what’s causing the symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, and how it should
be treated. This part of your Wiki should essentially answer the questions
presented in your case study. Don’t write them out as answers though – present the
information in an interesting, clear way that will share your understanding of the
patient’s condition with your fellow students.
4. Include links to relevant sources used to find your information.

Pictures: Place at least two (but preferably more) figures, diagrams, photos etc. to illustrate your case study. Engage your viewer with interesting images.

Video/animations: Embed at least one video or animation in your wiki, again, illustrating some aspect of your case study. Try to find videos that pack a lot of relevant information into a short amount of time. Use your best judgment to find examples that are accurate and clear. Under EDIT menu go to Widgets and Video. Follow the onscreen directions. Check with your teacher if you aren’t sure.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Teen Begins Ascent of Mt. Everest?

This is the latest report I can find about Californian teen trying to be the youngest person to climb the "Seven Summits" - the highest point on each continent. In the film you watched in class, the climbers have to go up and down the mountain over several weeks, acclimating to the altitude. The teen and his parents are taking an alternate route that doesn't involve this acclimation stage. Hopefully we'll find out soon how he's doing!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

General Questions for Circulatory and Respiratory Systems

All students answer these general questions about the Circulatory System (Chapter 29) and Respiration (Chapter 30). Due next Friday, May 7.


Question 1: Trace a drop of blood from the heart to the body and back to the heart. Differentiate between the systemic and pulmonary systems.

Question 2: Distinguish between arteries, veins and capillaries both functionally and structurally. Describe the composition and functions of blood.


Question 3: Describe the mechanics of breathing. Include the relationship between pressure and volume.

Qusestion 4: How are oxygen and carbon dioxide transported in the blood? Be complete, especially with respect to how oxygen and CO2 are exchanged within the tissues (as opposed to at the alveoli).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Endocrine/Reproduction Questions for ALL to Answer!

EVERYONE (all groups, all bio classes) needs to individually answer the following two questions and turn them in on Friday.

1. Desribe the mechanism by which a peptide hormone initiates a cell response; a steroid hormone initiates a cell response. How are they the same? How are they different? Give a specific example of each and state their effect on the human body. (Ch. 35)

2. Compare the hormonal controls of the male reproductive cycle with the hormonal controls of the female reproductive cycle. How are they the same? How are they different?(Ch. 36)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Brain Rules!

For Periods 3, 5, and 6: This is for Wednesday night's homework!

1. Read the introduction to Brain Rules by John Medina that you got in class today.
2. Go to the Brain Rules website and explore a bit.
3. Pick a Brain Rule that sounds interesting or you think might be particularly relevant to your life and click on the link to that specific rule. Watch each segment of the video, assimilate the info provided, and click "next" until you are done with the segment.
4. Go to the CPS Brain Rules blog and post a response to your brain rule!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The increasing power of the sugar pill....

This is an interesting NPR story that combines aspects of the nervous system with the idea of the placebo effect, which I'm sure you're all fundamentally familiar with. It turns out that, for some disorders at least, the placebo effect is real enough to obscure the true results of double-blind clinical experiments that scientifically determine the effectiveness of different drugs. Very interesting!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Safer Ways to Care for Patients

As we begin our unit on the human body, I ran across this article in the NY Times interviewing a physician about patient care. With the health care debate being pushed forward by President Obama, what are your thoughts on health care - how can we lower health care costs and improve care, who should get it, what should it cost, why should you care?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Resurrecting the Extinct?

Wow! Check out this segment of tonight's "60 Minutes."Scientists are currently doing research involving interspecies cloning and surrogacy, a bit like what Michael Crichton suggested when he wrote Jurassic Park. DNA from and endangered species is inserted into the egg of a common species, then the egg is put back into the surrogate mom. It has worked fine in a couple of species of wild cats. If it proves to be generally successful, the technique could be used to resurrect any species for which we have DNA - even things like wooly mammoths! Watch the video!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Biology Homework for Monday! It's Fun!

1. Read/explore the information about "The Family Tree" provided here
(Read up to the "Quick Quiz") - this will help you get a good start on the worksheets we passed out in class today.

2. Watch video Discovering the Great Tree of Life - this is a great overview of what we are currently discussing and how it ties in with genetics. It's about 10 minutes long and well worth the time!!

If you need additional information to help you do the worksheet, you can also use your text - pp 340-348.

Some terms that you might find useful:

A clade consists of all of the groups sharing a common ancestor, plus that ancestor.
A clade is also called a monophyletic (see below) group.

A synapomorphy is a shared derived character. It is a specific feature shared by all of the descendants of a particular common ancestor. A clade is defined by one or more shared derived characters that are unique to that group. For example, the presence of mammary glands and hair/fur are the shared derived characters, or synapomorphies, that define the mammals, which all belong to the same clade. The mammal clade excludes any group that does not have those two traits, and are presumed to all be descendants of some common ancestor who did have hair and mammaries. Thus the mammal clade is distinct from the reptilian clade (which you now know includes birds), the amphibian clade, and the fish clade. All four of these groups together, however, can be combined to form a bigger clade - the vertebrates.

A plesiomorphic trait is an ancient trait that all members of a specific group share, so it's not helpful in distinguishing among them. For example, the presence of a backbone is plesiomorphic for all of the vertebrate clades.

* A monophyletic grouping is one in which all species share a common ancestor and all species derived from that common ancestor are included. This is the only form of grouping accepted as valid by cladists. (For example, turtles, lizards, crocodilians and birds are all derived from a shared common ancestor. Thus a monophyletic grouping would place all of these together, rather than placing birds into a separate group.)
* A paraphyletic grouping is one in which all species share a common ancestor, but not all species derived from that common ancestor are included (for example, grouping turtles, lizards and crocodiles as "reptiles" and separating that grouping from the birds).
* A polyphyletic grouping is one in which species that do not share an immediate common ancestor are lumped together, while excluding other members that would link them (for example, a hypothetical group the "lizmams" made by grouping together the lizards and the mammals).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Tree of Life Web Project

Think the stuff we are discussing in class right now is kinda cool (I certainly do!)? Check out this amazing and ambitious project called The Tree of Life Web Project. It's a collection of information about biodiversity compiled collaboratively by hundreds of expert and amateur contributors. Its goal is to contain a page with pictures, text, and other information for every species and for each group of organisms, living or extinct. Connections between Tree of Life web pages follow phylogenetic branching patterns between groups of organisms, so visitors can browse the hierarchy of life and learn about phylogeny and evolution as well as the characteristics of individual groups.