This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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Investigative Cases
The Case: Turn that Bycatch into Gold

As an enthusiastic intern with the National Marine Fisheries Service, you are offered a chance to experience the world of commercial fishing firsthand. You join a boat and it's crew for a 12 day cruise, and your job is to observe operations and help the crew as needed.

The skipper promptly puts your intellect and education to full advantage and sets you to work shoveling the bycatch overboard after a new catch has been dumped on the deck. Leaning on your shovel while the skipper visits the head, it occurs to you that one of the species you've been tossing to the gulls might form the basis for a new fishery. At least researching such a venture wouldn't make your back ache like this! You resolve that, as soon as you get off of this stinking boat, you're going to pitch your idea to your boss back at NMFS.

Case Author:
Peter Nelson Emory University:Center for Science Education

Case Analysis

1. Verify your initial identification of the organism using a dichotomous key
2. Use library resources (electronic databases, SCI, reference personnel) to locate pertinent primary & secondary literature on the organism to learn about the biology of your target species
3. Synthesize the biological information: what information is relevant to developing a fishery?
4. Applying ecological/management concepts, use simulation modeling (e.g. Demography 4.1) to work up a demonstration of just how sustainable your fishery will be and what management steps may be necessary to keep it sustainable
5. Integrate socio-economic issues with your biological information when considering this new fishery--for example, is this going to attract and support operators of small vessels from local ports or will it require huge processing ships and fleets of catch boats to make the operation pay?

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


1.Identify the organism (learn/practice the use of a dichotomous key).

2.Research its life history, distribution, and ‘catchability’ (library research techniques, review primary & secondary literature, apply basic concepts in population ecology / fisheries, and model this using some form of simulation software).

3.Synthesize the information acquired; what’s relevant and what isn’t?

4.Write a well-crafted and convincing proposal for your boss integrating management and socio-economic perspectives



Investigations and Activities


1. Identify your organism using the keys provided.

2. Library search of basic information on the biology of the organism.

3. Use Demography 4.1 [possibly SPATIAL or ALLOC from FAO, ECOPATH from UBC, FAST from Auburn, POPULUS...?] to run a simulation model on the population dynamics of your organism under different forms of fishing pressure.

Potential (this is only a list of possible investigations—you’re encouraged to come up with your own):

1. Interview commercial fishers

2. Talk to Loan Officer at a bank

3. Research the history of a comparable fishery (e.g. Orange Roughy)--valuable lessons available here!

4. Discuss with a fishery management scientist



Aquatic Fisheries and Life Sciences Abstracts National Fisherman
Local bank personnel
Aquatic Fisheries and Life Sciences Abstracts
California Dept of Fish & Game

National Marine Fisheries Service

Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items

The Love Lab (advice, photos and more!)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (Fisheries Department)


Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission

American Fisheries Society

1. title.jpg


Student Products

Proposal to NMFS officer for developing a new fishery. The proposal identifies an "under-utilized" aquatic resource (usually a fish species but not always), and demonstrates the scientific rational for why this species represents a resource that is (1) catchable, (2) sustainable, and (3) marketable. In short, a venture that will provide a new opportunity for commercial fishers, particularly those currently targeting heavily exploited resources.

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Students will be required to report to the instructor at each of the following stages—all but the last is entirely casual, no writing necessary, just come by during class time or office hours:
• To verify that you’ve identified your organism correctly
• Propose (to the instructor) at least 5 possible sources of information IN ADDITION TO those required/suggested here
• Report on the basic success or failure in accessing these sources
• Provide a written proposal outlining your plan for a new fishery, why this will be successful (fishers will find it lucrative, management will be feasible, etc.) including evidence from your research (simulation models, similar fisheries, interviews, etc.) and how your new “wonder fish” might be marketed. After all, the finest fish in the world isn’t going to sell if the public isn’t interested!



Course name:
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Time during term:
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Additional notes:



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