Diverse Adaptations for Extreme Environments

Institution: Carleton University
Category: Faculty of Science
Language: English

Course Description

Day 1: Space – It’s a Finesse Problem
Space is popular in many sci-fi books and shows – including Firefly, Star Wars, and The Martian to name a few. The possibility of flying humans to Mars is within your lifetime! But what sort of issues will we face en route to other planets? The vacuum of space leads to muscle/bone loss and vision changes, and astronauts require specialized suits to do tasks outside of the spacecraft. Students will undergo various ‘missions’ to show how even simple motions require a lot of work in space! Voting for Day 4’s topic will also be held.
Experiments include:
• Oven gloves and tools
• Untangling headphones in water

Day 2: Space – Lots of Radiation Is Bad For You
Another critical issue with space travel is that humans will be outside the protective effects of Earth’s atmosphere. If you’ve ever had a bad sunburn, you know that radiation can be unpleasant at best, and life-threatening at worst! Students will learn about the different types of radiation, and see for themselves how radiation can cause mutations in our DNA. They will also learn materials we already use to protect against radiation, and promising new ideas for the future including radiation-eating fungi!
Experiments include:
• Extract your own DNA
• Grow your own bacteria

Day 3: The Diversity of Reproduction and Evolution
We all know that mammals give birth to live young, birds lay eggs, and platypuses are strange! However, the rest of the animal kingdom has far stranger means of reproduction to help them survive their environmental conditions. Students will learn about hermaphroditic worms, asexual-reproducing reptiles, birds split into a female half and a male half (bilateral gynandromorphism), and viruses which hijack other life to reproduce! They will witness how even single-celled organisms which form spores to reproduce can solve problems which took human civil engineers years to figure out, and how reproduction allows antibiotic-resistant bacteria to form.
Experiments include:
• Study life on Jupiter’s moons
• Bacteria and antibiotics

Day 4: The Science of…..
Based on the results of Day 1’s voting, Day 4 will be dedicated to discussing the science of a popular science fiction show or book. From biology to technology to just plain critiquing scientific techniques, students will gain a new perspective on science in media, and how reality doesn’t quite line up as shown in the movies! Fun demonstrations will also be shown.
Experiments include:
• TBD based on voting results
• Demos: carbon-sugar snake

Day 5: Presentations – Design an Organism
Students will come together to present their ideas (either individually or in groups) for how a new organism might evolve in space or a planet entirely unlike our own. They will integrate their knowledge of biology, chemistry, and evolution to hypothesize the types of humans may find as we continue to reach for the stars.
Experiments include:
• Demo: liquid nitrogen"