When I teach BIO101 I usually give at least one assignment that entails finding a biology-related article, writing a short summary of it and explaining the gist of it to the rest of the class. We did that this Monday and the students picked, as usual, some interesting topics (including some that take us way outside of the scope of the course, e.g., game theory and Evolutionarily Stable Strategies). The sources, as usual, are popular science magazines like American Scientist (the last one that is still of high quality, I’m afraid to say), Scientific American, Discover, Natural History, etc.
One of the students talked about the research on butterflies and beetles by Emlen and Nijhout – if this happened just a week later, she could have used the brand new (and better written) article in Seed Magazine on this topic instead of a 1998 article from Discover.
But this year there was a first! One of the students reported on a paper she found online – where? On PLoS-Biology, of course. This paper about ‘Thermal Stress and Coral Cover as Drivers of Coral Disease Outbreaks’. And she did a good job understanding the paper (with a little help from an MSNBC article about it as well). Remember, this is someone with zero background in biology, being able to understand a true scientific paper, not just a popular science article. I was quite impressed!
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