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  • Created 08 Jun 2017

These are the selected Data Nugget activities that participants in this Faculty Mentoring Network (FMN) will implement during the Fall 2017 semester. Each FMN participant will choose 2 of the following to adapt and implement in their classroom. Each Data Nugget takes students through the entire process of science behind the research, including introducing the scientist behind the data. While each Data Nugget follows the same template, the type of data and the science concepts vary so please select the activities that fit best into your course curriculum.

TEACHER GUIDES CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING HERE. Student versions of each Data Nugget activity can be found at, but we have removed the Teacher Guides from that page and placed them in a Google Drive folder to prevent students from accessing them. We took this step after several reports of cheating.  In addition, all Data Nuggets are online as PDFs, but if you would like a MS Word copy to customize it for your class, please email Liz or Melissa!

  1. What do trees know about rain?

    • The typical climate of arid northwest Australia consists of long drought periods with a few very wet years sprinkled in. Scientists predict that climate change will cause these cycles to become more extreme – droughts will become longer and periods of rain will become wetter. When variability is the norm, how can scientists tell if the climate is changing and droughts and rain events today are more intense than what we've seen in the past? The answer to this challenge comes from trees!

  2. Finding Mr. Right

    • Mountain chickadees are small birds that live in the mountains. To deal with living in a harsh environment during the winter, mountain chickadees store large amounts of food throughout the forest. Compared to populations at lower elevations, birds from higher elevations are smarter and have better spatial memory, helping them better find stored food. Smarter females from high elevations may be contributing to local adaptation by preferring to breed with males from their own population.

  3. Deadly windows

    • Glass makes for a great windowpane because you can see right through it. However, this makes windows very dangerous for birds. Many birds die from window collisions in urban areas. In North America window collisions kill up to 1 billion birds every year! Perhaps local urban birds are able to learn the locations of windows and avoid collisions. By comparing window collisions by local birds to those of migrant birds that are just passing through, we can determine if local birds have learned to deal with this challenge.

  4. Sticky situations: big and small animals with sticky feet

    • Sticky, or adhesive, toe pads have evolved in many different kinds of animals, including insects, arachnids, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. The heavier the animal, the more adhesion they will need to stick and support their mass. For tiny species like mites and flies, tiny toes can do the job. Each fly toe only has to be able to support a small amount of weight. But when looking at larger animals like geckos, their increased weight means they need much larger toe pads to support them.

  5. When a species can’t stand the heat

    • Tuatara are a unique species of reptile found only in New Zealand. In this species, the temperature of the nest during egg development determines the sex of offspring. Warm nests lead to more males, and cool nests lead to more females. With warming temperatures due to climate change, scientists expect the sex ratio to become more and more unbalanced over time, with males making up more of the population. This could leave tuatara populations with too few females to sustain their numbers.

  6. Are you my species?

    • How do animals know who to choose as a mate and who is a member of their own species? One way is through communication. Animals collect information about each other and the rest of the world using multiple senses, including sight, sound, and smell. Darters are a group of over 200 colorful fish species that live in lakes and rivers across the US. The bright color patterns on males may signal to females during mating who is a member of the same species and who would make a good mate.

  7. Bon Appétit! Why do male crickets feed females during courtship?

    • In many species of insects and spiders, males provide females with gifts of food during courtship and mating. This is called nuptial feeding. These offerings are eaten by the female and can take many forms, including prey items the male captured, substances produced by the male, or parts from the male’s body. These gifts can cost the male a lot, so why do they give them? They may increase the male's chances of mating with a female, or they may help the female have more and healthier offspring.

  8. Winter is coming! Can you handle the freeze?

    • Depending on where they live, plant populations each face their own challenges. For example, in Arabidopsis thaliana there are some populations of this species growing in very cold habitats, and some populations growing in very warm habitats. The idea that populations of the same species have evolved as a result of certain aspects of their environment is called local adaptation.

  9. Gene expression in stem cells

    • Every cell in your body contains the same DNA. Genetically identical skin, brain, and muscle cells can look very different and perform very different functions by turning particular genes on and off. But once they differentiate, their role in the body is fixed. Unlike these cells, stem cells have the ability to turn into any other type of cell in the body. Can we uncover the genes expressed in stem cells that give them that ability?

  10. City parks: wildlife islands in a sea of cement

    • It's tempting to think that wild places are only somewhere "out there", far away from humans and cities. However, as more and more people move into cities, they are quickly becoming the main place where many people experience nature and interact with wildlife. A camera-trapping project in the Cleveland Metroparks reveals a vast urban wilderness that is home to countless wild creatures living among us.