General Objective: To develop a better understanding of the real way in which biologists conduct scientific projects by conducting an original project in the field of animal physiology, writing a high-quality scientific paper about your project, and presenting the results of your project at the Animal Physiology Symposium.

Specific Objectives:

1. Gain experience writing grant proposals.

2. Gain experience planning and conducting original research.

3. Gain experience writing a scientific paper and having it reviewed.

4. Gain experience presenting the results of scientific research.


In this laboratory, you will develop and conduct an experiment in the field of animal physiology.  You and your laboratory partner will decide on a topic, discuss that topic and your methods with me, and then write a two-page proposal for your project.  You will then have several weeks in which to conduct your experiment(s) after which, you will write up the results in the form of a scientific paper and present the results of your experiment at the Eleventh Annual Davidson College Animal Physiology Symposium.  At the end of these instructions I have listed several project possibilities, but I encourage you to develop your own questions and experiments.  I highly encourage you to be creative and ambitious.

During the middle of September (or earlier), you should discuss your project plans with me.  As soon as possible, you should let me know (on a written form) what animal subject you hope to use, how many you will need, what special equipment, supplies, or space you may need, etc. so that I can be getting these things for you.  Remember, when choosing animal subjects and planning your project, there are several things to keep in mind (August Krogh ideas may help):

A. working with invertebrates has several advantages. Working with vertebrate animals requires an approved Animal Use protocol from the Davidson Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and should be discussed wth Dr. Dorcas asap to avoid delays in your research. Working with humans requires an approved protocol from the Human Subjects Board and should be discussed as early as possible with Dr. Dorcas to avoid delays in your research.

B. remember that there are constraints on equipment, etc.

C. you must be able to complete your project within 4-5 weeks.

D. remember to plan your experiment so that you have appropriate statistical power.


See Syllabus for due dates and grading.

My expectations are high.  I expect all work to be well planned, carefully conducted, and carefully written.  Attention to detail is paramount.  I will be reviewing and evaluating your work as I do when I review proposals and papers for colleagues in my field.  I will be happy to help you with writing, including providing comments on short sections of your paper (i.e., not the entire thing) before time for grading.  The Davidson College Writing Center is also available for writing help.  Remember, when writing in the sciences, preciseness is extremely important.  Your work should have a logical sequence and should not be vague (i.e., in general, avoid terms such as ”these” or ”this” whenever possible).

I expect that some projects conducted during this class may be of high enough quality to warrant submission to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.  To date, three projects resulting from this class have been published in quality, peer-reviewed journals. (* denote animal physiology students)

If you are interested in possibly publishing your work from this class, you should talk me about it ASAP.

I will provide details on how to write your paper and develop your presentation .  Please see instructions for your proposal below.  You should use a digital camera to take pictures of your experiment(s) which can later be incorporated into your presentation. If you need to borrow a camera for this purpose, please let me know.

I expect that whatever you come up with as your project, it will at least take up the bulk the equivalent of four laboratory periods.  Some experiments may require you to check something daily (e.g., take a temperature measurement every day).  Even though these four weeks will be on your own, I expect you to show up in lab at the beginning of each lab period to check in, discuss any problems, etc. unless otherwise notified.

Proposal Instructions:

You should view your proposal as a justification for what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and how you plan to analyze your data (you should discuss this with me before you begin).  Justification (i.e., why your project is important; how it relates to previous studies, etc.) for your project should be well supported by citing the peer-reviewed literature.  To help, I have posted an example on of a grant proposal on the class web site (note - this proposal might not follow the detailed format below, but should give you a good general idea of what I expect).

Particulars (many of these will apply to your paper as well):

1. Proposal should be written using a wordprocessor and printed on a laser printer.

2. Font should be Times Roman or Times New Roman, 12 point.

3. Proposals should be double spaced.

4. Length (excluding literature cited) - no more than two pages.

5. Page numbering - top right corner, Times Roman 12 point font.

6. Subheadings should be used where appropriate.

7. A title page should be on the front of each proposal.  The following should be centered.

Title (all caps); Author(s); Date

8. All units should be metric.

9. You should carefully edit all papers submitted for grammar, spelling, etc.  Feel free to use spell checkers and grammar checkers if needed.  Also, its often a good idea to have a colleague review your proposal other than your collaborator.

10. Write in the first person (i.e., active voice) when appropriate.  For example, We will measure the pH of the water as opposed to The pH of the water will be measured.

11. Your literature cited should match the following examples exactly:

Journal article        

Arnold, S. J., and C. R. Peterson. 1989. A test for temperature effects on the ontogeny of shape in the garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis.  Physiological Zoology 62:1316-1333.

Fox, W. W.,  C. Gordon, and M. H. Fox. 1961. Morphological effects of low temperatures during the embryonic development of the garter snake, Thamnophis elegans. Zoologica 46:57-71

Book chapter in an edited book:

Avery, R. A. 1982. Field studies of body temperatures. Pp. 25-91 In C. Gans and F. H. Pough, (eds.). Biology of the Reptilia, Vol. 12. Academic Press, New York, NY.


Cossins, A. R., and K. Bowler. 1987. Temperature Biology of Animals. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY.Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie, Jr., and R. M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, ID.Possible Animals to Use in Your Project:                       

Animals we have or can possibly get - or you can get:

corn snakes (we have about 4 adults)

rubber boas (we have 6)

other snake species (?)

mice (we have about 30)

frogs or toads (various species)

salamanders (e.g., newts)


fish (goldfish, mollies, bettas, etc. or fish eggs)

humans (we have quite a few of these, though they are difficult to keep in captivity for extended periods)


brine shrimp


Planaria – aquatic flatworms


pillbugs (sow bugs or rollie pollies)



hydra – small, freshwater anemones


Copepods – small aquatic crustaceans




Other ideas - visit Carolina Biologica Supply for ideas -


Some Equipment We Have:

Six temperature and light controlled environmental chambers

thermocouple thermometers and thermocouples

infrared thermometer

temperature sensitive PIT tags – implantable in animals to measure internal temps

water baths

aquaria, pumps, etc.

chemicals and drugs (any you might need)

Physiology hardware (computer-based)

small cages of many types

pH meters

heat tapes and lamps

dissection equipment

small animal metabolism chambers

other - just ask.... I will see what I can do

Possible Ideas for Projects:

Effects of hydration on thermal tolerances in animals

Effects of hydration on temperature selection in animals

Evaporative water loss in terrestrial versus semi-aquatic animals

The effects of digestion on metabolic rates in snakes (other animals?)

Effects of temperature on performance on salamanders of the Davidson Area

Body temperature selection of salamanders of the Davidson Area

The effects of temperature on skeletal muscle contraction and jumping in leopard frogs

The effects of digestion on body temperature variation in corn snakes

The effect of temperature on digestive rate in corn snakes

The effect of temperature on crawling speed in animals

The effect of temperature on calling in crickets

The effect of temperature on the metabolic rates animals

The effect of temperature on heart rate in animals (possibly)

The effect of temperature on respiration rate

Daily cycles in body temperature selection

Head-body temperature differences in snakes in a laboratory thermal gradient

The effects of ecdysis on temperature selection in snakes (possibly)

The effects of acclimation on temperature selection in animals

The effects of temperature on tongue-flick rate in snakes

Determining the lower critical temperature for animals