Undergraduate biology education is undergoing dramatic changes, emphasizing student training in the “tools and practices” of science, particularly quantitative and problem-solving skills. We redesigned a freshman ecology lab to emphasize the importance of scientific inquiry and quantitative reasoning in biology. This multi-week investigation uses observations of avian form and function and an extensive student-generated data set to introduce hypothesis testing, experimental design, and biological statistics. Research groups compare feeding preferences (location and seed selection) between selected species of wild birds, evaluating their findings quantitatively through descriptive statistics, graphing, and data analysis, and ecologically through comparisons of species biology and natural history.
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Vol. 75 • No. 4