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: Dam It! I'm in Swampeast Missouri!

Nate Eddleman had just graduated from college and become an ecological preservationist. Before beginning his new career he wanted to spend some time discovering his roots. He came to the Bootheel of Missouri to grow closer to his great-grandfather Sam and learn more about how Sam kept his family afloat during the Great Depression. While in the region, Nate also wanted to enjoy the outdoors and historical sites.
He chose to camp at Lake Wappapello with his great-grandfather to enjoy his company and do some fishing. One evening, the two sat at the campfire and Grandpa shared some stories of helping to develop the region. Nate took notes:

Grandpa helped build the miles of channels and ditches to drain the region of swamps. The land was considered inhabitable. Only Indians would come to the swamps seasonally to hunt the abundant animals and to fish. By then, railroads were being built and the cypress trees from these "useless" swamps were strong and made excellent railroad ties. The trees were also used to build homes, such as the Hunter-Dawson home in New Madrid.

Once the swamps were drained, they found that the soil was rich. More people began to settle in the region hoping to make a buck. Early, the land was practically given away, now it is one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the United States.

Grandpa also told about helping build the dam in the '40's to control flooding and create this beautiful lake. The recreation area helps the region economically. Many people are now building homes along the lake to "get away from it all".

Of all that his great-grandfather said, what surprised Nate the most was to learn the area was once covered by swamps. He wondered how much of this swamp land was removed to develop the area.

Nate felt very passionately about wetlands. While in college, Nate studied the hydrology of wetlands and how species depend on the changes in water level. He understood the value of wetlands. He loved his great-grandfather, but was disappointed at the destruction of the great swamp. But, then Nate realized that people didn't know about the value of wetlands to people and wildlife in his grandpa's day.

Nate began to wonder how the great swamp might be restored. Can we tear the dam down? How else could these swamps be brought back?"

Case Author:
Michelle Fisher Three Rivers Community College

Case Analysis

Issues students should be able to identify:

Economic Issues: How do agriculture and recreation bring income to the area? Could restoring the wetlands bring income by improving water quality or providing habitat for ducks for hunters?

Biological Issues: What species are found in Wappapello Lake? Would these populations be harmed in the dam was destroyed? What species depend on wetlands for their life cycle? Are any of these species rare or endangered? Could wetland restoration increase population size of these organisms? What roles do wetlands play in water recycling?

Political Issues: Who is responsible for the dam? Who maintains the drainage ditches? Who monitors the species present in the area? How would each of these organisms feel about this issue?

Social Issues: Who lives in the area? How would these people be affected by the decision made? How do people in the area feel about this issue? Would their opinion change if educated on the topic?

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

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

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

Learning Goals


At the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • analyze a case study
  • consider various sides of an issue before making decisions.
  • research biological, social, political, and economic components of decision making.
  • understand the importance of ecological interactions and the impact of humans.
  • simulate and evaluate field sampling strategies
  • use standard field sampling tools and techniques to identify the various types of wetlands.
  • apply the content listed under issues, above.



Investigations and Activities

Note: investigations may be entirely student generated or investigative laboratory experiences that the instructor arranges for the entire class. Sometimes a combination of both works well

Activity 1:  Read Dam Fools, by James V. Long and answer questions regarding the material for discussion.

Activity 2:  Read case scenario Dam It!  I'm in Swampeast Missouri!  Students will work in groups of four and decide what the case is about, what they already know, and what they want to learn.  Students should be directed to consider biological, social, economic and political aspects of the issue.  Groups will prepare a poster to convince the class of their decision.

Activity 3Locate maps of the region prior to draining of the swamps.  Compare to current maps.  How do the bodies of water differ over time?

Activity 4:  Collaborate with the Missouri Department of Conservation-Long Term Resource Monitoring Program to conduct comparison studies of water quality of Lake Wappapello and Mingo Wildlife Refuge, considering biological, chemical, and physical components.   Identify plant and animal species in both location.  How do they differ?  Are any considered to be rare or endangered?

Activity 5Research organizations that are helping to conserve wetlands in Southeast Missouri.  What are they doing?  What can you do?

Activity 6Visit WebQuest Site:  Cracking Dams 



Sampling equipment based on the technique to be done

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

WebQuest activity:  Cracking Dams 

Dam Fools! by James V. Delong

Internet Sites:

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

Special Data Items

1. dam1.gif
2. dam_loggers2.gif
3. dam3.gif
4. dam4.gif


Student Products

Students will work as groups to develop a poster showing background information, issues addressed, and their decision made. Students will present their poster and convince the class of their decision.

Students will write a laboratory report on their observations of Lake Wappapello and Mingo Wildlife Refuge. Data showing biological, chemical, physical will be giving. Based on data, students will determine the quality of the water.

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

10% - Participation and collaboration with group

50% - Poster presentation 

40% - Participation in field trip and written report of analysis of water quality.



Course name:
General Biology
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Ecology/Environmental Issues
Time during term:
6 lecture hours, 4 laboratory hours
Students will work in collaborative groups during lecture and conduct water quality sampling in the field.
Students in course:
majors and nonmajors
Collaborative elements:
Students will have class time to brainstorm. Data will need to be collected independently and be brought to class for discussion within groups.
Additional notes:



Select individual images for more information.

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