Natural selection in the field and the classroom
Andrews, Tessa Marie.
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This dissertation examined natural selection in westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) and undergraduate learning in the subject area natural selection. Translocation-moving individuals to a new habitat to establish, re-establish or supplement a population-is a crucial management strategy for cutthroat trout. One of the major questions managers face in a translocation is which population(s) should contribute individuals? Unfortunately, we often know little about the differences among potential contributing population. The goal of the first half of this dissertation was to look for differences in performance among individuals from five populations of westslope cutthroat trout. I assessed survival, growth, and condition (Chapter 2) and dispersal (Chapter 3) following the translocation of embryos from these five populations to six introduction sites in Cherry Creek. No differences existed among these populations in relative survival, growth, or condition at age 1 or 2. In contrast, statistically significant differences existed in dispersal distance among these populations. These differences were consistent across some, but not all, introduction locations. As our knowledge of evolutionary biology has continued to grow, so too has our knowledge of how students learn evolution. Students taught using active learning strategies can learn substantially more about complex scientific concepts than students taught using primarily lectures. The goal of the second half of this dissertation was to further examine how students learn natural selection and how instructors facilitate that learning. I conducted a national survey of the relationship between an instructor's use of active learning strategies and how much students learned about natural selection (Chapter 4). I used a random sample of instructors from the largest and most prestigious universities in the country so that my results could be inferred to this large population of instructors. The degree to which instructors used active learning was NOT associated with student learning in this population of typical biology instructors. However, I found that a discussion of contemporary human evolution that used active learning strategies could effectively facilitate student learning of natural selection (Chapter 5).