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Nyack College Arts and Sciences News

Dr. Park participates in award-winning Virtual Labs Series

Posted by Fernando.Arzola on Monday November 5, 2012

Dr. Peter Park, Assistant Professor of Biology, was involved in the development of an online virtual lab using the threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) (Link to virtual lab here: http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/vlabs/stickleback/index.html). This virtual lab is a production of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and it involved numerous researchers and science educators from various institutions, including Stanford University and Stony Brook University.

The goals of the Stickleback Virtual Lab are to teach high-school and college students basic principles in ecology, evolution, and applied statistics using real scientific datasets concerning this fish. It will introduce students to the science and techniques used to analyze the forms and structures of organisms. The lab focuses on pelvic structures of the threespine stickleback fish. In some lake populations of this fish, the pelvis has sharp spines used to protect against predatory fishes. In lakes without such predators, the pelvis has been lost. The virtual lab includes three experiments in which students explore in this species the impact of natural selection in living populations and based on their real fossil record, patterns in past populations. Some of the activities in the virtual lab came from original laboratory exercises developed by Dr. Park for use in Nyack College's Bio 107 (General Biology I) course in Fall 2011. Students in Bio107 provided valuable feedback that became incorporated into the virtual lab, and they were acknowledged in the Virtual Lab Credits.

The Stickleback Virtual Lab is the latest installment in the award-winning Virtual Labs Series by HHMI. All HHMI virtual labs are free-of-charge and easily accessible, and high school and college biology teachers nation-wide are encouraged to incorporate these labs into their curriculum: http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/vlabs/.

The Stickleback Virtual Lab coincides with the release of a short film produced by HHMI, entitled "The Making of the Fittest: Evolving Switches, Evolving Bodies." The movie can be viewed here: http://media.hhmi.org/fittest/Evolving_Switches_Evolving_Bodies.html.

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