Rather than just teach about respirometry, Dr. Sandy Kawano wanted to incorporate hands-on learning into her Comparative Animal Physiology teaching lab at California State University, Long Beach, consisting of junior- and senior-level students. She worked in partnership with lab assistants Miles Valencia and Katie Kern to redesign an investigation of the metabolic rates of two different marine invertebrates: one that has the ability to sit still for long periods of time versus one that tends to be more mobile.

The Objectives

The objectives were two-fold. First, the team wanted students to be able to compare the respiration rates of animals with different ecologies and body designs and be able to show how metabolic rate can be measured via oxygen consumption to test scientific hypotheses. Second, the team wanted to provide students with the opportunity to use scientific equipment that they could potentially use later in graduate school or in the workforce.

“I had conducted this investigation many times, but I wanted to find a way to get better results,” said Dr. Kawano, who is now an assistant professor in the biological sciences department at The George Washington University. “Our team was able to come up with a fresh take on the experiment that successfully utilized the capabilities and precision of data-collection technology. Upgrading to the dissolved oxygen, salinity, and temperature probes let us capture some really awesome data through inquiry-based activities.”

The Investigation

During the “Measurements of Respiration in Marine Invertebrates” investigation, students specifically used Vernier data-collection technology, including LabQuest 2, to investigate an echinoderm species and a crustacean species, in this case a sea urchin and a hermit crab, respectively. Their data supported the hypothesis that echinoderms have a much lower metabolic rate than the more mobile marine invertebrates that use muscle contractions to move around. They were able to conclude metabolic rate is affected by more than just the size of an organism, and certain tissues allow different animals to be more efficient than others. Although temperature and salinity can affect metabolic rates, students were able to use the data from the temperature and salinity probes to confirm that these environmental variables did not differ between the animal groups and learn the importance of ‘extraneous variables’ that could confound their results.

“By compiling and analyzing the class data, students were able to see how metabolism scales with size and how ecology influences physiology. This could not have been done without the use of the technology,” said Valencia. “When I took the class beforehand, our setup was rather old and didn’t give us reliable results. Incorporating the new equipment like the dissolved oxygen probe and respiration chamber really changed that and was a lot easier to set up, too.”

The Outcome

“The data-collection technology allowed for students to be able to have a graphical representation of the data and form a deeper understanding of what the data is doing in real time,” said Kern. “It was also beneficial when designing the lab because it allowed for all data to be stored and graphed in Logger Pro rather than using separate data analysis programs. This streamlined the data-collection and analysis process, which is very useful in student settings.”

The affordability of Vernier technology gave Dr. Kawano the opportunity to provide her students with valuable hands-on experience using data-collection technology. “We were able to outfit this lab at a fraction of the cost if we used other technology,” she said. “In addition to being affordable, the Vernier technology is so reliable and easy to use. Students are able to get up and running right away with collecting and analyzing quantitative data.”

“Plus, the support is so phenomenal,” she added. “Vernier doesn’t just sell technology, they really help you integrate it into your instruction.”

About the Educator

Sandy Kawano, Ph.D.
The George Washington University
Washington, D.C.

Dr. Sandy Kawano is currently an assistant professor in the biological sciences department at The George Washington University. Prior to this role, she taught Comparative Animal Physiology and Laboratory in Comparative Animal Physiology courses to undergraduate students at California State University, Long Beach in Long Beach, California.