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Tutor profile: Brian M.

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Brian M.
Environmental educator
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Questions

Subject: Environmental Science

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Question:

The Theory of Island Biogeography talks about the diversification and extinction rates of organisms on islands, with big islands being able to support larger populations and more diversity. Using your knowledge of this environmental theory, describe whether you think conservation efforts should focus on saving lots of small areas or fewer large tracts of habitat.

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Brian M.
Answer:

The heart of this question is an old controversy called SLOSS: Single Large or Several Small. By applying the theory of island biogeography to conservation strategies, it is probably better to invest in saving one large area rather than several small ones. This is because each patch of protected habitat can be thought of as an island, even if they are not separated by water. Bits of forest separated by agriculture act like islands, in that larger ones can hold more diversity of species and larger populations of those species. Additionally, larger and rounder areas have relatively less perimeter than smaller or less round ones, and it is at the perimeter where there will likely be the most disruption and disturbance. Many creatures require primary habitat, which can only be found far away from disturbed land such as roads and agriculture, so it would benefit them to conserve fewer large tracts than to try to save lots of small areas. Overall, using Wilson and MacArthur's Theory of Island Biogeography, it makes more sense to conserve large, connected areas rather than lots of small "islands".

Subject: Biology

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Question:

In studying evolutionary biology, we know that mutations in DNA are the root of much of the variation between organisms. And in pop culture, we know that many superheroes supposedly gained their powers through genetic mutation. Below, discuss two abilities or powers that could theoretically be possible through genetic mutation, and two abilities or powers that are not possible. Be sure to give some details about why each ability would or wouldn't possibly be caused by genetic mutation.

Inactive
Brian M.
Answer:

Our genes do indeed control many things about our biology. Genes can influence physical traits as well as behaviors. However, at the end of the day, genes (and the mutations affecting or changing those genes), really only do one thing: code for proteins. Those proteins are incredibly important, but both the proteins and the underlying genes have to obey the laws of physics. So you can't have a gene that lets somebody levitate, but you could have genes that code for wings, which could then let them fly. Similarly, you could have genes that make somebody grow more muscle to make them super strong, since that is something genes influence. But genes can't give anyone telekinesis, since there isn't any scientific basis for moving objects using only your mind. Overall, genetic mutations could theoretically allow for people to be stronger or have developmental differences like wings, but not break the laws of physics by levitating or moving things with their minds.

Subject: Algebra

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Question:

You go to the book store to buy 8 books: three paperbacks, and five hard covers. The hard cover books each cost twice as much as each paperback. If your 8 books cost $26, what is the price for one hard cover book?

Inactive
Brian M.
Answer:

We can write this word problem out as a basic equation using algebra. Let's make the cost of each paperback book 'x' dollars, since we don't yet know how much they cost. What information do we have? We know the cost of a hard cover book is twice as much as a paperback. So if one paperback is worth 'x', then a hard cover is worth '2x'. We also know how many books we bought: 3 paperbacks, which we can express by writing '3x'; and 5 hard covers, which we can write as '5 times 2x', since each one costs 2x. The last bit of information we are given is the total cost, which is 26 dollars. So, we can write out our purchase as '3x + 5(2x) = 26'. Using PEMDAS, we first multiply, then add, so that '5(2x)' multiplies out to be '10x', since 5 times 2 is 10. Then we can add our 3x to 10x to get 13x. Now, we have a simplified equation: '13x = 26'. We want to find 'x', so let's divide both sides by 13, leaving us with 'x = 2'. But before we put that as our answer, let's check what the question asked for: "What is the price of one hard cover book?". Ahh, so we found the price of a paperback, which is $2, but we actually need to double that price, because we know hard covers cost twice as much. So our final answer is $4.

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