Pika Population Genetics


Summary:  The goal of this lesson is to answer the question: Are pikas living at low elevations genetically different than those at high elevations? Students investigate this question in two ways, both commonly used by modern population geneticists. First, students investigate general gene flow in these populations by looking at the proportion of individuals that are heterozygous in a population. Second, they will look at single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data to identify DNA regions (loci) that may be undergoing natural selection and will use their creativity to guess possible functions of these genes. Finally, students will develop methods for testing their gene’s function and consider the ability of low elevation pikas to survive in the future.

Learning Goals:    

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

1. Reaffirm Mendelian genetics concepts and be able to test a population for inbreeding and understand the consequences of inbreeding on a population
2. Understand what a SNP is and how scientists use SNPs to understand natural selection
3. Improve math and spreadsheet skills, as well as graphing and interpreting data trends
4. Develop a scientific proposal for studying pika adaptation at different elevations


* Lesson plans are available in .doc format for easy customization. This lesson includes 4 sections for easy download. Please contact us with any questions or problems.


High School Next Generation Science Standards Addressed:

• HS-LS3-3. Variation and distribution of expressed traits in a population.
• HS-LS4-2. Evolution.
• HS-LS4-3. Advantageous heritable traits.
• HS-LS4-4. Natural selection. 
• LS4.C: Adaptation