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: Where Have All the Ladies Gone?

The Fulton County School board is ecstatic. They were able to purchase a 27 acre tract of land (the Connally property) from the city of East Point for only 350,000 dollars. The population in that area is growing and they desperately need a new elementary school. Construction is slated to start in a month.

Susan Rein has wonderful childhood memories of playing in the woods of the Connally property. It would be such a shame to have that area cleared for the building of a school. She spearheads the formation of a group, The Friends Of Connally Park, to save the land from development. The Georgia Conservancy, Green South Fulton, Trees Atlanta and The Sierra Club have now joined forces with GA Dept. of Natural Resources to help save Connally Park.

Lonice Barrett, the Natural Resources, informed the Fulton County School board that the GA Environmental Policy Act requires an ecological survey when a project may damage rare plants like the pink lady slippers found on the Connally property. Barrett adds that the site is home to the largest white oaks in the county(nearly 300 years old).

The environmental coalition filed a lawsuit against the Fulton County School Board to stop any construction. Fulton Superior Court JudgeStephanie Manis has ordered a survey of the property before a final ruling in the case can be made -- and for a minimal amount of money (none of the environmental groups or the state have much money to put into this project).

Case Author:
Theodosia Wade Emory University:Oxford College

Case Analysis

What do the pink lady slipper, Cypripedium acaule, white oak, etc. look like?

How does one go about doing an ecological survey of given area? (presence absence, number, density, location, etc.)

What sampling techniques (methods) are best given the monetary and time constraints?

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

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

Learning Goals


  • Students will learn to identify the pink lady slipper, white oaks and other plant species.
  • Students will explore the use of different sampling techniques and how they relate to the distribution of organisms being surveyed first using textual resources and then using computer simulations.
  • Students will participate in a class discussion whereby each student group presents their best sampling technique. The class critiques and decides on one method to be used for the ecological survey.
  • Students sample the Connally property for the presence and abundance of pink lady slipper, white oaks and other plant species.
  • Students will report to the environmental coalition, Lonice Barrett and Judge Manis as to the presence and abundance of the pink lady slipper, white oaks and other plant species based on their field sampling.



Investigations and Activities

Hand out the case in class and give the student groups time to begin with the worksheet for the case including:

  • Read the case aloud
  • Recognize potential issues
  • What is this case about?
  • What do we need to know?
  • How will you find the answers?

Spend the last of class discussing the assignment to research textual material for the best sampling method and point them to the resources. Plan due in class.

Class and/or Lab: Have discussion of the methods student groups propose for sampling. Do the Ecobeaker investigation. Decide on one sampling method based on results of the simulation and textual research.

Lab: 3-5 hrs. for sampling Connally Park. Arrange for students to get back late from lab this week (give them time off somewhere else). (maybe do this in 2 lab sessions- one for Ecobeaker and then one for the field survey) (students would then get out early after Ecobeaker)

Students will write up their environmental survey reports and hand them in at a given date. (rough drafts, final drafts, give clear instructions for writing such an environmental report, provide examples)

Students will propose a solution to the problem in the form of a recommendation as part of their written report

Students will participate in a class discussion which reviews and critiques the student recommendations




Ecobeaker from BioQUEST

Various Ecology Lab Manuals (TBA)

Sampling equipment based on type of sampling to be done.

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

Special Data Items

1. lady2.jpg
2. lady1.jpg
3. lady3.gif
4. lady4.jpg


Student Products

Student groups (2-3) will write up the results of their investigation with Ecobeaker computer simulation. (or add this to the plan below as a justification of their plan based on data from Ecobeaker as well as textual research work)

Student groups(2-3) will submit a written sampling plan for approval by the class before actually going in the field.

Students (1or 2-3) will report the findings of their field work to the environmental coalition, DNR and the judge in the form of a handout and oral presentation. (I would like to actually mail a copy of some of the better ones to each of the stakeholders).

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Results from Ecobeaker simulation 0-20%

Sampling plan prepared for class discussion 20% (or 40% if including Ecobeaker results).

Report of the environmental survey for the stakeholders 60%



Course name:
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Time during term:
lab? field? distance learning?
Students in course:
freshmen? majors?
Collaborative elements:
Work in groups? Share access to resources? Likely to discuss cases outside of class?
Additional notes:



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