Courses of Study 2019-2020 
    Mar 22, 2023  
Courses of Study 2019-2020 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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BIOEE 4920 - Special Topics in Ocean Biodiversity: Ocean Biodiversity Research Apprenticeship

Spring (weeks 8-14). 4-6 credits, variable. Letter grades only.

Prerequisite: intro biology or intro oceanography, and permission of instructor. This course is part of an off campus program at Friday Harbor Marine Labs that provides field research experience for advanced students in marine biology. You must apply to be accepted to the program by contacting the course coordinator, Phoebe Dawkins at

C. Greene, D. Harvell.

The research apprenticeship aims to teach students critical hands-on research skills and team-building in a closely mentored environment. This research apprenticeship in a field marine setting will be based at Friday Harbor Laboratories in the San Juan Islands, Washington. Research-intensive field work provides students with a life-changing experience that cannot be replicated in even the best university laboratory, and that is especially true for Cornell students interested in ocean and marine life. The project planned is Climate Change and Health of Seagrass. It will involve field research to survey health of a range of the rich, but declining sea grass beds around the San Juans. Students will test the general hypothesis that a pathogen, Labyrinthula zosterae, is part of the cause of the decline. Students will bring samples back to the lab and learn methods of assaying health of blades and isolating the causative microorganism. They will perform PCR tests to identify the L zosterae and perform a test of Koch’s postulates. They will have an opportunity to run experiments in Friday Harbor’s Ocean Acidification Center. They will use the R statistics package to analyze their data and craft it into a paper. The research apprenticeship course will be supported by 2 additional courses that will teach the biota of the San Juan islands and ecology of sea grass beds.

Outcome 1: The students will be critically evaluating the biology of a host-pathogen system through field surveys and lab experiments. They will be incorporating host-pathogen theory and testing hypotheses about theory with a real world system.

Outcome 2: They will be finding and accessing information about methodology and critically evaluating the methods we will be using. All new information gained will be used ethically.

Outcome 3: They will be doing quantitative surveys to reach conclusions about the role of environment in causing variation in pathogen load, and using their qualitative observations about differences in sites to add to their analysis.

Outcome 4: They will have extensive practice in presenting with visual aids: initial and final project proposal will be both written and orally presented.

Outcome 5: They will work as a team which will require them to respect either others perspectives, which will not all be the same. In addition, they will experience the perspectives of local landowners, whose activities affect the health of ell grass beds. From local conservationists to cattle growers, whose animals contribute to stress on the ecosystem.

Outcome 6: They will work as a team which will require both their independent contributions and cooperation with the entire group.

Outcome 7: This project examines factors promoting sustainability of seagrass beds, which are an essential marine habitat and are highly endangered.

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