Category Archives: Uncategorized

An introduction to ecosystems

Australia-climate

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Australian ecosystems are usually described by a combination of living and non-living components – for example, tropical rainforest, temperate or dry sclerophyll woodlands, alpine meadows or mallee scrublands. The types of communities that live in these ecosystems will be dependent upon the range of temperature and rainfall as well as the soil type, which affects the plants that are able to thrive and therefor the animals that live there. Australian soils are mostly very nutrient poor, due to the fact that the landscape has been exposed to rain, wind and erosion for many millions of years, washing nutrients into the rivers and oceans. An exception to this is the areas where volcanic eruptions have brought nutrients to the surface, such as the western volcanic plains.

A biome is a major community of plants and animals classified according to its predominant vegetation and characterized by the adaptations of its organisms to that particular environment.

YouTube videos:

An introduction to evolution

Equine_evolution

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Good introduction from BBC Earth: How do we know evolution is real?

Evidence for evolution:

Tree of Life Resources:

YouTube Videos:

Unit 4 Biology – AoS 1: Heredity

 

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This Area of Study includes key knowledge about genetics and heredity:

Cell reproduction:

  • binary fission in prokaryotes
  • the phases of the cell cycle in eukaryotes including DNA replication, the division of the nucleus (mitosis), and cytokinesis
  • the key events that result in the production of haploid sex cells from a diploid cell (meiosis), including recombination

Molecular genetics:

  • the nature of genomes, genes and the genetic code
  • gene expression: the genetic code and roles of RNA in transcription, RNA processing in eukaryotes, and translation
  • the concept of gene regulation (the switching on and off of genes by factors expressed by regulator genes and environmental factors)

DNA tools and techniques:

  • gel electrophoresis;
  • DNA amplification;
  • DNA sequencing;
  • making a recombinant plasmid;
  • bacterial transformations;
  • DNA profiling;
  • gene cloning;
  • and using plasmids as gene delivery systems

There are a good series of six, (less than) ten-minute videos on YouTube that cover these concepts:

  1. Gene Technology1 of 6 – Restriction enzymes and ligation
  2. Gene Technology 2 of 6 – DNA probes and amplification
  3. Gene Technology 3 of 6 – PCR and gel-electrophoresis
  4. Gene Technology 4 of 6 – DNA fingerprinting
  5. Gene Technology 5 of 6 – DNA sequencing
  6. Gene Technology 6 of 6 – Gene cloning

Inheritance:

  • the nature of chromosomes, alleles, genotype and phenotype
  • the causes of phenotypic variation: mutations; recombination of parental alleles in sexual reproduction; polygenes; and interactions of environmental factors with genes
  • continuous and discontinuous variation
  • patterns of inheritance involving the monohybrid cross: dominance; recessiveness; co-dominance; multiple alleles
  • dihybrid crosses as independent or linked
  • pedigree analysis: autosomal and sex-linked inheritance; use of the test cross.

Some resources to assist your revision of this topic:

DNA tools and techniques

Gel Electrophoresis: This technique is used to separate fragments of DNA according to their size – longer fragments with a large number of base pairs travel more slowly through the substrate (agarose gel), while shorter fragments with a smaller number of base pairs travel a greater distance. A buffer solution is added to the apparatus and DNA fragments are ‘cut’ at specific sites using restriction enzymes and loaded, together with a fluorescent dye, in ‘wells’ at the negative end of the apparatus.  An electric charge is applied and the negatively charged DNA fragments are attracted to the positive end of the gel matrix. Gel Electrophoresis on YouTube. 

DNA amplification: Using a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) researchers can create many copies of DNA in a test tube.

DNA profiling: Also called DNA fingerprinting, this technique compares DNA from victims, suspects and crime scenes to determine which samples have the most in common. How does DNA fingerprinting work from the Naked Science Scrapbook (YouTube). 

DNA recombination: Scientists are able to insert fragments of DNA from one organism into another organism, bringing together genetic material from various sources. Recombinant DNA produces genetically modified organisms, that may add desirable characteristics to food crops, for example.

DNA sequencing: DNA sequencing is the process of determining the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA molecule. DNA Sequencing on YouTube.

Gene cloning: Molecular cloning is a set of experimental methods in molecular biology that are used to assemble recombinant DNA molecules and to direct their replication within host organisms. Gene cloning in plain English on YouTube. 

Gene transformation: “In molecular biology, transformation is the genetic alteration of a cell resulting from the direct uptake, incorporation and expression of exogenous genetic material (exogenous DNA) from its surrounding and taken up through the cell membrane.” Bacterial transformation by zabaaz on YouTube.

Structural, Functional and Behavioural Adaptations

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Image Source – 20 Amazing Animal Adaptations for Living in the Desert

Living organisms are spread across the planet in a wide variety of different habitats and environments. Various adaptations assist organisms to survive in the hottest and driest deserts, coldest arctic tundra and wettest rainforests. Structural adaptations are how an organism is built, such as the wings, feathers and hollow bones of birds that assist them to escape from predators and find their food. Functional or physiological adaptations are how an organism works, which you may not necessarily be able to see from the outside, such as the ability of desert dwellers to survive without drinking water by re-absorbing much of the water from their faeces and producing small amounts of very concentrated urine. Behavioural adaptations are the actions that an animal takes – what it does – to survive, such as migration, resting in the heat of the day or huddling with other individuals to conserve body heat and moisture.

 

Unit 1 and Unit 3 Biology Exam Revision

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There are several strategies you can use to revise for mid-year exams – here are just a few:

  • Use the Hawkesdale Biology Quizlet Class to revise terms and definitions for each chapter
  • Copy and revise the Slideshows I have saved in the Year 11 and Year 12 Biology class folders (Student Public Drive)
  • Create a set of study notes with the Chapter headings, diagrams and key concepts. These will be very useful at the end of the year for revision too.
  • Create mind maps that link each of the main concepts – use colour to help you remember.
  • Use the posts in this blog to review YouTube videos and other resources for each chapter.
  • Past exams are a good indication of the standard of questions you will be asked – do as many as you can reasonably cope with! Use questions you find difficult as a guide to what you need to study more of.
  • Create flow charts and posters for the wall at home of concepts that can be represented diagrammatically.

“Body at War” at Federation University, Ballarat

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On Friday 17th April, four VCE Biology students attended the “Your Body at War” program, facilitated by the Gene Technology Access Centre at Federation University. Kiri, Leah, Che and Stephanie travelled to Ballarat to participate in the program, which celebrates the “Day of Immunology”.

Together with about 100 students from three other schools, they had the opportunity to hear from Associate Professor Robyn Slattery (Monash University) about the history of vaccination, current research in immunology and exciting new discoveries about immunotherapy in cancer treatment.

They then donned lab-coats and entered the science laboratories at Federation University, where they learned how to use specialist equipment and techniques, such as the Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). They also had the opportunity to discuss career perspectives in science with staff and Dr Misty Jenkins from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

One of the sponsors of this event is the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Later this year we have three Year 11 students who have been very fortunate to obtain a work experience placement at WEHI in Melbourne. This is an exciting opportunity for them to find about authentic medical research, working with expert scientists in a world-leading facility.

Also in science news, students in Year 10 have the opportunity to attend the Science Experience Ballarat, at Federation University from 29th June to 1st July. This three day, hands-on program is a great introduction to the diverse world of science and it’s connection to a range of interesting careers. Please apply online prior to 8th June. Speak to Mrs Gow for further information.

Photosynthesis by video conference from GTAC

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GTAC – Introduction to Photosynthesis on YouTube

GTAC – Photosynthesis – Light Dependent Cycle and an Animation showing six cycles of the Light Independent Cycle on YouTube

Tony, from GTAC, demonstrated a photosynthesis experiment in which equal quantities of spinach leaves were placed in four clear, closed containers. Each container was subjected to light of the same intensity, but one had no filter (control) and the other three were wrapped in coloured cellophane (red, blue and green, as shown above). The coloured cellophane filters out different wavelengths of light, so the red cellophane reflects red wavelengths and allows other wavelengths to pass through. Each container had two probes, measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in parts per million (ppm). What would you expect to happen in the cellophane-covered containers compared to the control?

Tony was also able to answer two questions that students have about DNA transcription.

(1) Where does the mRNA molecule go after transcription? “A single mRNA can be translated many times by ribosomes into polypeptides (it’s one way a cellular response dependent on gene expression can be amplified).  After that mRNA is degraded, releasing individual nucleotides which can then be recycled into new mRNA.  In eukaryotic cells, the mRNA is protected by the 5’ methylguanosine cap and the 3’ poly-A tail.  When these are removed from the ends, presumably in response to an intracellular signal that says the mRNA is no longer required, the mRNA becomes susceptible to degradation.”

 (2) When and where does transcription occur? “I would say transcription (the process by which the mRNA is first made from DNA template) occurs in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells almost continuously but the genes being expressed change throughout the cell cycle and in response to stimuli.  For example, genes relevant to growth may be transcribed during G phases.  A special set of genes relevant to DNA synthesis are transcribed during S phase.  If a (stem) cell received a differentiation signal, a relevant set of genes would be switched on for differentiation into a particular cell type.  I would say the only time transcription ceases is when the chromosomes condense for mitosis and cytokinesis.  Essential proteins are still around to ensure cell division proceeds as intended.  After cell division and the chromosomes de-condense, it’s back to business as usual.”

Thanks Tony for these valuable extensions to our Year 12 Biology program at Hawkesdale P12 College.