Laboratory experiences are a critical component of how universities equip students in the sciences for the job market, yet there can be several challenges when adapting difficult molecular techniques into interactive learning activities for the classroom. Providing experiential learning approaches in the laboratory enables students with diverse learning styles to grasp difficult lecture concepts. Through collaborative learning, students will engage in genetic parentage analysis of the dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, who has a unique mating system with monogamy and male pregnancy. This multi-week experiment provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to learn common molecular techniques for identifying parent-progeny relationships and analyze the genetic component of mate selection. The project will allow for peer teaching during the group work conducted in teams, which reinforces the concepts as students learn. Nine male and 11 female H. zosterae were allowed to freely mate and offspring were collected after male seahorses gave birth. Each student group will extract DNA from sixteen offspring to compare their results with the unique genetic identities for each of the potential parents from the experimental mating tank. Using the results from the parentage assignments, students will be able to determine if seahorses preferred mates of a specific size and learn more about mate selection patterns. During the experiment, students will gain valuable hands-on experiences while learning common molecular techniques, such as PCR, gel electrophoresis to separate the DNA bands by size, and fragment analysis to identify the genetic differences for identification. The experiential learning activity will reinforce the lecture concepts for students with all learning styles and introduce students to molecular techniques that are transferable for jobs in various scientific careers. Understanding how we can teach genetic concepts through experiential learning is key for training well-rounded biology undergraduates as they prepare for their career choices after college.

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