FALL 2006, Wednesdays 2:00 5:00

FALL 2006, Wednesdays 2:00 5:00



FALL 2006, Wednesdays 2:00 – 5:00

Here are two important notes.
First, this electronic handout on lab exercises is incomplete and highly tentative. Many changes will be made, so please check in periodically to see what’s new.
Second, please remember that missing a lab will cause you serious problems and may result in your failing the course! Please see course syllabus.

September 6HUMAN IMPACT ON ENVIRONMENT: Glendale Shoals Field Trip. On this day we’ll take private vehicles (mostly yours) to a lovely spot in Spartanburg County. Your instructors will talk a little bit about the history (and pre-history) of human land use in South Carolina. Afterwards you will splash around in the shoals and capture a sample of aquatic macroinvertebrates. We’ll identify these animals down to Order and discuss how the composition of the macroinvertebrate fauna is related to water quality. We plan to stay on-site until almost 5PM, and you should definitely plan on getting very wet. (Shorts and wettable shoes will be appropriate lab wear.) If the day is rainy, we shall all be miserable, especially since Mr. Abercrombie tends to sing old Army songs in the rain. If the sun shines, we should have a wonderful time. Your instructors will provide modest refreshments. No lab report will be required.

September 13MODELING (Part 1): Physical and Computer Simulations of Mark-Recapture Population Estimation. A major component of modern science is the creation of models. Indeed, science cannot apprehend the world except by the use of models. Models, however, are human creations—and the world is not! Therefore, scientists make huge mistakes when they become conceited and their mere, human models with the much more wonderful natural world.

So, right in front of your very eyes, Mr. Abercrombie will develop a simple mathematical model for estimating wildlife population-sizes by mark-recapture techniques. (You should watch his assumptions very closely.) Then we’ll capture, release, and recapture living organisms on the Wofford campus. (Don’t get too excited; the creatures with which we’ll deal never bite—though some folks say they occasionally bark.) Finally, we’ll perform computer simulations (many) of the same mark-recapture experiment. Probably the computer simulations will work much “better” than the actual, outdoors experiment. You’ll need to figure out why. A lab report will be required, and it is due at the beginning of class on 14 September.

September 20MODELING (Part 2): Binominal Keys. Scientists sometimes use binomial keys to help them identify things (particularly living organisms) with which they are unfamiliar. The idea is to run through a set of choice-couplets until you come to an endpoint that provides the requisite identification. For a silly example, please consider the following binomial key that sorts the identities of a car, a sled, and a motorcycle:

Choice-couplet 1: Does the object have wheels?

If “yes,” then go to Choice-couplet 2.

If “no,” then the object is a sled.

Choice-couplet 2: Does the object have more than 2 wheels?

If “yes,” then the object is a car.

If “no,” then the object is a motorcycle.

For one exercise today you will develop a key that sorts a set of inanimate objects. The only criterion for building this key is that it should work unambiguously. We shall call this an empirical key.

For another exercise today you will develop a key that sorts a set of reptiles. This could be another empirical key. However, other sorts of keys may also be constructed—and under some conditions these other keys may be preferable. (Your instructors will mention at least a utility key and a phylogenetic key. You will need to learn what these terms mean.) Now here is a take-home message for today’s sermon: Any key beyond the mere empirical reflects (well or poorly) a model of what the world is like. Your instructors will discuss this statement with particular reference to phylogenetic keys and general theories of evolution. You will have a short assignment that will be due on Thursday, 28 September.

September 27AGRICULTURE & LAND USE (Part 1).

October 4AGRICULTURE & LAND USE (Part 2).

October 11WATERSHEDS (Part 1): Lake Lanier Field Trip.

October 18WATERSHEDS (Part 2).

October 25STATS MODELING & EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN. We’ll use this lab period to construct an experimental design that we’ll actually apply on Thursday the 26th. We shall discuss the difference between observational studies and experiments. We’ll review the method of comparison, and we’ll emphasize the critical importance of randomization. We’ll also think about why medical experimenters try to perform double-blind experiments, and we’ll recall the concept of placebos. Finally, Mr. Abercrombie will discuss the use of statistical tests to answer the quintessential question of inference: “Was what we observed due to chance, or is something interesting going on?” Our mini-study will have to do with the effects of certain chemicals on pulse rate and blood pressure. (Do you know how to measure ‘em? You will….)

Now here is an important note: Nobody (and we mean nobody) is to eat anything after midnight of 25 October.

November 1GROCERY STORE STUDY (Part 1). Do different people, living in different parts of town, have different access to different types of food resources—and are differences in access related to economic differences in potential clienteles? These are questions that can be researched scientifically. And although we won’t have time this semester to do a full study of the subject, we can understand how such a study could be conducted, and we can certainly do at least a little of it. We’ll concentrate on grocery stores (why is that simplification a problem?), and eventually we’ll look at two. In this first lab, we’ll select the study-stores, and we’ll talk about how we’ll investigate them.

To begin the afternoon’s work, your instructors will talk about how and why one might wish to do a food-availability study. We’ll consider ways in which one might estimate the economic status of grocery-store clientele, and we’ll talk about how one might measure food-availability. Then students will separate into teams of two and deploy afield to an instructor-selected set of stores. After about an hour, the small student-teams will return and make their reports. At the end of lab we’ll select the stores and lay plans for next week’s work. Students will also be divided into two teams for the next week’s work.

Students will be given take-home assignments that will be due on 2 November.

November 8GROCERY STORE STUDY (Part 2). Independent off-campus work. The two student teams will be head out to the two grocery stores and will make the measurements discussed during the pervious lab period.

November 15 GROCERY STORE STUDY (Part 3). During this lab we’ll talk about the structure of a research report, and we’ll assign students to write and assemble various sections of such a report. The final product will be due on the day of the final examination.


November 29(Tentative.) DNA FINGERPRINTING.