Undergraduate Seminar: Sharks, skates, and rays, oh my! Myths and truths of elasmobranch biology

06/19/2012 15:21

Ever wonder how the way sharks and rays are portrayed by various media including TV, films, books, magazines and newspapers influences the way we feel about them and what we know about them?  These animals are often vilified by the media to grab attention.   But what do we really know about them?  How often is accurate science included by various types of media?  When and where do the inconsistencies lie?  And finally, how can we help get accurate information out there to help promote their conservation without using scary images, ominous music, or violent words?  These are all topics explored as students dive into learning the most up to date information on elasmobranch biology and read/view a range of different types of media starring elasmobranchs from childrens books through the latest blockbuster movie. 

I designed this course to meet general education seminar requirements at UCLA with emphasis on writing.  Students developed their own research project, including developing their topic, compiling data, and writing a full report.  To improve writing skills we held several writing and editing workshops during class time and students refined their skills with peer editing assignments.   I also included several short writing assignments to allow students a chance to explore different styles of writing, for example, students had the opportunity to compare science writing with science journalism and 'translate' a primary research paper of their choice for a public audience.


See the full syllabus here! www.lsic.ucla.edu/classes/winter07/syllabi/eebiol98t_syl07w.pdf

List of sample student project titles:

A psychological perspecive of the fear of sharks: from acquisition to elimination

Sharks in the news: A case of mistaken identity?

Sharks in film: The facts vs. what people believe

Governmental policy and negative media attention

Six months later, death of Steve Irwin has mixed results in stingray tourist industry

Economic impact on shark populations