Tutor profile: Abby H.
Subject: Natural Sciences
What is edge effect and how does it impact wildlife populations?
Edge effects are changes in ecological community structures or wildlife populations that occur at the boundaries, referred to as ecotones, of habitats or ecosystems. These spaces are often small but rich in biodiversity and densely populated. Some species live exclusively within these edges. They are called edge species. While edge effects can be positive, in some instances, particularly when humans have disrupted habitats, edge effects can become harmful to overall ecosystem health. Edge effects can reduce habitat quality within existing patches and reduce functional habitat connectivity resulting in complications like inbreeding depression.
What is photosynthesis and could we 'hack' it to increase biomass?
Photosynthesis is the process in which plants convert carbon dioxide, water and light into sugar and oxygen. It is commonly written as an equation: 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2. This chemical process gives plants energy (in the form of glucose), produces oxygen, and sequesters carbon dioxide! This process takes place within tiny organelles of a plant's cells called chloroplasts. Despite being a 3.5 billion year-old biochemical process, photosynthesis is really inefficient in generating biomass. The main culprit of this inefficiency is RuBisCo, short for ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase. RuBisCo is an enzyme responsible for capturing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and converting it into biomass (stems, leaves, roots of a plant). However, RuBisCo is kind of terrible at telling the difference between carbon dioxide and oxygen. Sometimes it accidently latches onto oxygen molecules, creating toxic by-products such as glycolate. Photorespiration takes care of most of these by-products but at a great energy cost (and thus biomass) to the plant. If scientists can find a way to regulate RuBisCo or determine alternate photorespiratory pathways, we could, in theory make photosynthesis more efficient. Applied, this could result in larger crop yields. Research on this topic is currently being done at the University of Illinois!
What is student-centered learning, and how is it implemented in the classroom?
Student-centered learning is based on the constructivist learning theory, in which the student plays a central role in their learning journey. In this model, the focus is shifted away from the teacher and onto the student. Instead of the teacher imparting wisdom on the student through didactic teaching practices, the prior knowledge and experience of a student is used and built upon in a way that promotes student autonomy. This teaching model promotes lifelong learning, placing the responsibility of learning squarely in the student's hands. Student-centered learning provides fertile ground for differentiated instruction where students ultimately advocate for themselves. A student-centered classroom can take many shapes. You will observe the educator emphasizing student voice and independence during instruction. Students may choose what or how they learn a particular topic. You will see students playing an active role in their learning, rather than simply being lectured at as seen in traditional classrooms. Student-led investigations are a great example of student-centered learning in science education. This investigational format allows student to plan and implement a scientific investigation from start to finish. Often this leads to better understanding of scientific and engineering practices then traditional learning opportunities.
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