SC 118

Sample Assessments


There are 6 questions in each assessment. You must do 5 of them, your choice.



1. Questions are answered directly, without extraneous information

2. Organization of responses is clear and functional


3. Descriptions of major relationships are present and applicable

4. Relationships are stated explicitly explained clearly

Problem Solving

5. Responses reflect an application of basic scientific concepts and vocabulary

6. Responses have sufficient specific information and detail to answer questions adequately.



Assessment 1

1. A pamphlet claims that women who resist an attacker are more likely to be injured than women who donít. Consider how the data must have been gathered. Does this study demonstrate causation or correlation? Explain your answer. How would you interpret this information?




2. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 7, 1999

A record number of gray whales have washed up dead on West Coast beaches this year, and the number of calves migrating this season is the lowest ever recorded, leading scientists to believe that the once-endangered mammals may have rebounded past the Pacific Ocean's capacity to nurture them.

Use the language of population biology to explain what might be happening to the gray whales.




3. You are on a Peace Corps mission to a country with limited resources. The local people practice subsistence agriculture. They ask you whether they can get more food by feeding their grain to cattle and eating the cattle or by eating the grain themselves. What is your answer? Explain the ecological concept behind it.




4. How does patchy disturbance (small fires, small groups of trees blowing down, localized tree death from disease) increase the diversity of a forest?



5. Rachel Carsonís 1962 book Silent Spring was largely responsible for the banning of DDT and similar pesticides in the US. It probably saved ospreys, eagles and other species from extinction. Explain how toxins which may found in low levels near the bottom of the food chain can cause severe health problems for eagles, humans, and other carnivores.


6. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 11, 2001:

Lake sturgeon harvest from Lake Winnebago [has been] controlled through a cap system since 1999. That season, spearers harvested a total of 2,517 sturgeon.

What other methods (besides a system of penalties) could be used to get people who spear fish to limit the number of fish they catch in order to protect this resource?




Assessment 2

1. Dogs of breed A often have traits such as hip dysplasia and deafness, but are generally healthy otherwise. Dogs of breed B often have skin diseases and respiratory problems, but are healthy otherwise. All of the problematic traits are recessive and are not X-linked. Describe the most likely condition (phenotype) of a puppy that results from a cross between a breed A mother and a breed B father.



2. The movie "Deep Impact" speculated on the reaction of humans to a comet that could wipe out all life on the surface of the Earth. It showed the US Government housing two or three members of several animal species in an underground bunker. Presumably, these animals would be used to reestablish their populations after the skies cleared of ashes. Using your knowledge of genetics, speculate on the likelihood of success for this strategy. Explain your reasoning.




3. Identify the unit of selection. In other words, state whether natural selection acts on the individual, the population, the species, or the environment. Give an example to support your choice.




4. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 9, 1998:

[D] octors at a fertility center near Washington will report today that they can substantially stack the odds that a couple can have a baby of the sex they choose. [M]ost of the couples wanted to choose their baby's sex for "family balancing." A few wanted sex selection because they were at risk of having babies with genetic diseases that afflict boys almost exclusively.

Why do some diseases afflict only boys almost exclusively?




5. Milwaukee Sentinel, June 16, 1992:

Scientists have found that the ability of a plant to resist damage by frost is dependent either upon its ability to resist dehydration, as ice crystals form outside its cell, or upon the ability of the plant's cell contents to be supercooled without freezing.

Use the principles of natural selection to explain how resistance to frost could have evolved in some plants. (No credit for saying "survival of the fittest", but donít worry about explaining the actual mechanisms for frost resistance.)




6. Chose a cell organelle and compare its function to the function of an organ system that does a similar job for the body as a whole.



Assessment 3

1. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 17, 1998

School requirements for hepatitis B immunizations, which were new last year, have been expanded to include two additional grades this year. Last year, the state required children entering day care, kindergarten and seventh grade to have HepB immunizations to enroll in school. Thousands of children in the Milwaukee-metro area did not meet the HepB requirement and were excluded from school for up to 2 weeks last year.

Several parents have called your childís school to ask why they must get their children immunized. The principal would like an explanation that the school secretary can read to concerned parents. Write a brief explanation of how immunizations (vaccinations) work. Remember your audience.


2. If a person were to get hepatitis B and lose liver function, what would their body be unable to do?




3. A friend asks you to recommend actions that will allow her to lose weight in a healthy way. Explain them to her.



4. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 12, 2001

A biotech firm claims to have a way to get an entirely new type of stem cell from placentas, potentially turning biomedical waste into treatments for disease without the ethical or technical issues plaguing other stem cell research.

Why would there be fewer ethical issues in getting stem cells from placentas than from embryonic tissue? (Include an explanation of what the placenta is.)




5. Your friend has recently discovered that she is pregnant. She has decided not to visit a medical professional until her second trimester. Explain to her when the developing embryo/fetus is most vulnerable to damage and why.




6. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 5, 2001:

The government will begin issuing national organ donor cards as part of an aggressive effort to increase the number of donations, officials said Wednesday.

More than 75,600 patients are waiting for organs, and more than 6,000 of them die each year.

Why does a person who gets a heart transplant have to take immunosuppressive drugs?



Assessment 4

1. A student is scheduled to present the results of her research in front of her class. Her pulse is fast, her palms are sweaty, and she feels very warm. What do we call this group of physiological reactions? What is the purpose for which this response evolved? Make sure you answer both parts.




2. How do mood altering drugs work (in general)?




3. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 22, 2000:

The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers Tuesday not to swallow dietary supplements containing a potent thyroid hormone because the pills, commonly touted as fat burners, might cause heart attacks and strokes. The worrisome products contain the ingredient tiratricol, another name for the thyroid hormone TRIAC.

Why would increasing a personís level of thyroid hormone potentially cause both weight loss and heart attacks?




4. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 28, 2001:

The number of U.S. women who die from smoking-related illnesses each year has more than doubled since 1965 to 39% of all such deaths, the surgeon general said Tuesday.

How can smoking damage a womanís health?




5. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 11, 2000:

A small, 4-year-old private viral diagnostic company in Milwaukee County Research Park may have unlocked a key to the cause of multiple sclerosis, a disease marked by the destruction of a protective covering of nerve fibers [myelin].

What problems are caused by damage to the myelin covering of neurons?




6. Based on what you have learned in other studentsí focus group and environmental presentations, explain how an environmental issue can affect human health. Make sure you say what the environmental problem is, what health problem(s) it causes, and why.




Alverno Biology Dept. home page

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Last update: 4/18/02 by Rebecca Burton, Dept. of Biology, Alverno College