Mimulus in the classroom: Response and Educational Resources

We asked you for how you used Mimulus in the Classroom. Thank you all for your response!!!

We’re convinced that the many reasons that Mimulus has been awesome to teach us about biology and makes us love doing it will translate into excellent opportunities to help students learn. Here is a collection of current resources, course materials, etc.

paul beardsley / ben blackman / arielle cooley / lila fishman / jannice friedman / vanessa koelling / steve schoenig / seema sheth / andrea sweigart / john willis / carrie wu.

Paul Beardsley. California State, Pomona.
Conceptual focus: genetics, evolution
Species/lines: M. parishii, M. cardinalis, F1 hybrids, F2 hybrids, RILs
Course: undergraduate Introductory Biology series; plans for use in undergraduate Bioinformatics course; K-12
In the works: Paul and colleagues are funded to work with both K-6 teachers (NSF MSP) and grades 7-8 teachers (NSF-Noyce). They are currently writing lesson plans that will use Mimulus in lessons for grades K, 1, 3, 6, and 7 to teach major concepts in genetics and evolution aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. The lessons for grade K-6 will be disseminated nationally after two years of field-testing in a high-needs, Title 1 school district.
Ideas: wants fast-growing lines that segregate for single-locus Mendelian traits (to rival fast plants!)
Resource development: collaborating with Andrea Sweigart to generate M. parishii-M. cardinalis RILs.

Ben Blackman. University of Virginia.
Conceptual focus: ecology & development
Description of exercise: The exercise focused on phylogenetics and trait evolution. Students broke into groups to score the plants one day, and then they used those data to build their own tree and compare it to the molecular tree for a take home assignment.
Course: undergraduate lecture/discussion course.
Species/lines: M. ringens, M. acutidens, M. rupcola, M. bolanderi, M. dentatus, M. nasutus, M. bicolor, M. glaucescens, M. kelloggii, M. layneae, M. jundermanioides, M. guttatus, M. moschatus
Resource interest: Inbred lines, RILs (especially if pre-genotyped), RNA-Seq data, genomic data
Materials: Phylogeny session — Assignment, Activity, Data.

Arielle Cooley. Whitman College.
Conceptual focus: evolution & development
Course:Junior/senior undergraduate course.
Description of exercise:

The plan — Students make crosses within species, between closely related species, and between distantly related species. They do not initially know which plants were most closely related (each plant was labeled only with a number); the goal is to infer phylogenetic relationships using seed set from the crosses as an indicator of reproductive isolation.
The reality — Plants failed to flower in time. So students instead measured morphological traits, and also looked at DNA sequences from a single gene (CHS, Chalcone Synthase) from each plant in BioEdit, and built morphological vs molecular trees based on this information. Next year we’ll try to do it right.

Species/lines: Yellow-flowered M. cupreus (Cy43) was the ‘mother’ plant. Pollen donors were: orange-flowered M. cupreus (Co42), M. luteus var. luteus (MllEY7), and M. guttatus (IM62).
Ideas: A gene expression lab would be awesome. It would require a set of extremely reliable primers for a housekeeping gene and for a gene that is differentially expressed — maybe between M. guttatus & M. nasutus or between two tissue types of M. guttatus.
MaterialsSpecies concept lab student handout

Lila Fishman. University of Montana.
Conceptual focus: evolutionary mechanisms
Courses: upper-level undergraduate
Species/lines: M. parishii, M. lewisii, M. cardinalis (and relatives), M. guttatus, M. nasutus, M. nasutus x M. guttatus NILs
Description of exercise: For an upper-level research practicum, we conduced two different exercises (1/3 semester each) using Mimulus. The first was a modified version of the one developed by John W., Julie Noor, and Andrea S., focusing on adaptation and speciation using M. lewisii, M. parishii, M. cardinalis, and our M. parishii x M. cardinalis F2s hybrids (see Andrea Sweigart’s section for more info). The second exercise focused on ecological genetics experiment using populations of M. guttatus from thermal and nonthermal soils in Yellowstone National Park. Students examined patterns of phenotypic variation (within and among population variance, phenotypic correlations, etc.) and then conducted a heat shock experiment. We have also used Mimulus for preK – 6 programs on pollination ecology and floral morphology.
In the works: We will be working with a teacher this winter to develop the parishii x cardinalis exercise (or another) for use in a local high school classroom.
Resource development: We generated the initial F2 hybrids of M. parishii and M. cardinalis, and have extensive MgSTS marker information for these and other segregating populations. We have seeds (though not in vast quantities) of genotyped NILs (both directions) of M. nasutus and M. guttatus. NSF CAREER funds are available to support sharing of education resources (Mimulus for the Masses).

Jannice Friedman. Syracuse University.
Conceptual focus: evolutionary mechanisms
Course: upper-level undergraduate
Resource development: My laboratory has a population of M. guttatus that segregates for complete anthocyanin loss. It is a single recessive locus with two alleles. It would be great for teaching classic Mendelian genetics, as it is super simple to score (clearly visible in both vegetative and floral tissue), so perfect for looking at segregation ratios, etc.  I had an undergraduate student working on this project, supervised by Alex Twyford (post-doc). Once the project is wrapped up and hopefully published this fall, we would be happy to share seed.

Vanessa Koelling. University of Puget Sound.
Conceptual focus: evolution, genetics, bioinformatics.
Courses: undergraduate labs/lectures
Resource interest: I have not yet used Mimulus in the classroom, but I am very interested in doing so. I personally work with Mimulus guttatus, so I would be most interested in developing and contributing to the Mimulus community labs that work with that species. It would be great to have mutants for Mendelian genetics, but I’m also interested in getting students experience with quantitative genetics and mapping techniques. So of course inbred lines, markers, and genomic resources would all enhance our teaching possibilities.

Steve Schoenig. California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Course: classes through the UC Berkeley (Jepson) herbarium
Description of exercise: Classes teach a broad spectrum of students how to identify Mimulus in the field (existing keys are very difficult and frustrating) and introduce students to the explosion of adaptation and variability as a result of California’s diverse geography. In other words, studying Mimulus to learn more about Mimulus!  Since the names and species concepts are constantly changing I try and become an ambassador for modern taxonomy and convince them that we are slowly converging on real truths and debunk the feeling that “all the names are just going to keep changing every 25 years forever”.
In the works: The guttatus/Simiolus clade has been especially fascinating and perplexing to these field botanists taking my classes and I have tried to transfer research findings to them as they come out of all your labs. The tsunami of recent taxonomic hypotheses generated by Guy Nesom has added a lot of open questions that I will begin to investigate by looking at plants in the field. I would like to collaborate with researchers trying to square these primarily morphological hypotheses with molecular data and greenhouse studies.
Resource development: For the Mimulus website, I could help you pull together images from myself and others. I think it would be useful to start cataloging images of the macro and micro sites and substrates where the species occur. If it is indeed true that there are ~10 species of Simiolus in Madera Co., how these species partition and co-exist in the similar moist habitats becomes both an ecological and evolutionary puzzle. Having a place to see maps of observed and collected populations could add to biogeographic understanding (or at least help plan collecting trips).

Seema Sheth. Colorado State University
Conceptual focus: plant ecology lab
Description of exercise: Rather than designing a particular curriculum involving Mimulus, students did small group research projects where they came up with the questions, hypotheses, methods, etc. on their own. Students’ projects were quite simple, but I could see a lot of potential for developing more sophisticated projects. Project ideas examined herbivory, competition, and sexual vs. asexual reproduction.
Species/lines: M. guttatus, M. cardinalis, M. parishii.
Resource interest: Protocols (and associated seed, be it inbred lines, RILs, etc.) for evolution/ecological experiments that could easily be implemented in the timeframe of a semester-long lab would be very useful. I think there is good potential for simple experiments with strains from different environments (e.g., serpentine vs. non-serpentine), with different life histories (annual vs. perennial; selfing vs. outcrossing) may also be useful.

Andrea Sweigart. University of Georgia.
Conceptual focus: quantitative genetics, speciation, pollination biology.
Species/lines: M. lewisii, M. parishii, M. cardinalis, F1 hybrids, F2 hybrids
Course: upper-division undergraduate evolution laboratory course.
Description of exercise: In this three-part lab series, students explore the genetics of adaptation and speciation in M. lewisii, M. parishii, and M. cardinalis. On the first day, students are encouraged to explore divergent phenotypes (flower size, flower color, nectar volume, pollen viability) and think about their importance for reproductive isolation (this first lab was modified from an exercise developed by John Willis and Julie Noor – thank you them!). They are then exposed to F1 hybrids (and later, F2 hybrids) and challenged to think about the genetic basis of these traits (dominance relations, genetic architecture, etc.). In subsequent labs, students analyze phenotypic variation among parents, F1s, and F2s using the large class dataset generated the following week. They also analyze genotype data for a few molecular markers (among them are a couple known to be linked to certain phenotypes).
Resource development: collaborating with Paul Beardsley to generate M. parishii-M. cardinalis RILs (original F2s were from Lila Fishman’s lab). We plan to apply for funds for genotyping.
Materials:  here [pdf includes an Adaptation lab, and three Quantitative Genetics labs].

John Willis and Julie Noor. Duke University
Conceptual focus: Mendelian/quantitative genetics, speciation, pollination biology.
Species/lines: M. lewisii, M. cardinalis, F1 hybrids, F2 hybrids.
Course: undergraduate Introductory Biology series, lecture with lab.
Description of exercise: Students explore the genetics of adaptation and speciation in M. lewisii and M. cardinalis. Students are encouraged to explore divergent phenotypes (flower size, flower color, nectar volume, pollen viability) and think about their importance for adaptation to pollinators and reproductive isolation. Students also collect phenotypic data for a large F2 population.
In the works/resource development: For our NSF-funded grant on adaptation to serpentine soils, we’re going to be sequencing pooled population samples from about 24 serpentine and 24 non-serpentine populations from all over the west. These data will be made available for population genomics/bioinformatics exercises (in collaboration with Graham Coop at UC Davis).
Materials: Speciation/adaptation lab resources: handout, logistics, powerpoint, TA notes.

Carrie Wu. University of Richmond.
Conceptual focus: Plant physiology, invasive species
Species/lines: M. guttatus from Scotland and various western North American populations
Course: Introductory-level undergraduate lab with 20 students
Description of exercise: Students compared native and invasive populations to see whether they differed in stomatal density.  This was part of a larger project looking at how environmental factors affect physiology in invasive species.
Resource development: The white/pink flower color polymorphism in M. lewisii segregates as a nice Mendelian trait (Wu et al. 2013, PLoS ONE 8:e81173).


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