Course Guidelines for Biology 318 Experimental Vertebrate Development, 1 section (2 credits)


Instructor: Dr. Christopher Rose


Office hours: MF 1:25-3:05 pm; if I am not in my office, look for me in my lab; email me for an appointment outside of office hours.


Office: Bioscience 2028A             Lab: Bioscience 2022

Phone: 568-6666 (O)                   email:


Catalogue description: Experimental Vertebrate Development Lab (0,4). 2 credits, Offered fall

Students design and carry out independent research projects on different aspects of frog or chick development. Skills include manipulating live embryos, raising embryos and larvae from eggs, using wax histology to make microscope slides, immunohistochemistry, 3D reconstruction and morphometry-based analyses, and filming animal behavior. Projects are hypothesis-driven and investigate patterns, mechanisms and behaviors involved in the development of skeleton, lungs, tails, limbs and other organs. Prerequisite: BIO 140.


Goals and Objectives:


1. have students develop the skills for visualizing developmental processes and anatomy in four dimensions.


2. have students develop the skills for designing and carrying out their own developmental biology research experiments. These include how to extract useful information from experiments that appear to have failed or do not provide clear-cut or obvious results, how to anticipate sources of experimental error and trouble shoot new procedures, and how to design a logical sequence of questions and experimental and observational steps for investigating complex phenomena. 


3. have students develop research and communication skills by producing a lab report and presentation on their group research experiments.


4. have the students be trained in basic histology and immunohistochemistry, as well as other lab techniques for studying vertebrate anatomy and development.


Prerequisite: BIO 140.


Course time and place: MF 1:25-3:05 pm in Bioscience 2033.


Required texts and materials: none.


Adding/dropping class: Policy and deadlines can be found at


Disabilities: Policy and deadlines can be found at


Attendance policy: There is no credit given for attending class and no grade penalty for missing class. However, since the skills learned in this course are cumulative and since a large component of the grade is based on participation and seriousness of effort, students are strongly recommended to come to classes and to make up material missed due to absences.


Grading: The five grading criteria are participation in lab techniques, seriousness of effort, a group lab experiment proposal and presentation, and peer evaluation in the group effort.

            Participation in lab techniques is a measure of quantity of activity, i.e., did you put in the time required to make your lab work productive and did you adopt and follow a work schedule for completing the work on a timely basis. In addition to the 2.5 hours of weekly class periods, students are expected to commit an average of 5 hours per week, which because of the variable nature of developmental biology research is not expected to coincide with weekly class periods or be partitioned equally among weeks. In other words, once the research projects are underway, expect that you might have to work more than 5 of hours on some weeks and less on others. Recognize also that you will have access to the teaching labs in evenings and weekends and will be expected to complete research activities outside of class time, and that some activities, including sectioning, might require advance scheduling to avoid conflicts.

            Seriousness of effort is a measure of quality of activity, i.e., how well did you respond to instruction and feedback, how much individual care and thinking did you invest in making your lab activity successful, your ability to anticipate problems and trouble shoot, your ability to interact positively in a team effort, your ability to schedule your research to make it happen successfully, and how well did you clean the lab after working. Also, although the professor is available for meetings and consultation throughout the term, recognize that scheduling your research activity to make your research successful is your responsibility and not the professorÕs. In other words, you will be held accountable for your efforts to set and follow a reasonable schedule for completing your project and you should not expect the professor to be responsible for resolving your scheduling challenges or driving your project forward.

            Group lab experiment proposals and presentations will be graded on the basis of the quality, timely submission and revision if necessary of a written Introduction, Materials and Methods & Schedule, and the quality and thoughtfulness of the presentation of Results and Discussion. The other criteria will be graded by the professor based on his interactions with you and observations of your activity throughout the term.



Breakdown of grades:



Participation in lab techniques

20 %

Seriousness of effort

20 %


Group lab experiment proposal

20 %


Group lab experiment presentation

20 %


Peer evaluation in group lab experiment

10 %





Final letter grades will be assigned using the standard numerical scale (e.g., > 90 = A, 80-89 = B, etc.). Grades of WP and WF will not be given out in this class.


Missed classes and deadlines: Students are required to come to all class periods and to set and follow a schedule for completing their research project on a timely basis. The only valid excuses for missing a class period or assignment deadline are school-recognized religious observations, official school business with documentation, court appearances, job and graduate school interviews, sickness with a doctorÕs note, and a death or serious illness in family. When a student knows that they will miss a class or assignment deadline, they are required to convey that information to the professor by email as soon as possible before the date in question. Habits of missing class or not following your schedule to the best of your ability will affect your grades (see above).


Inclement weather policies: Missed labs will be made up at times to be announced at the next lab meeting. On days when the start of school is delayed past the start of a lab, the professor will announce by email whether the lab will still be held.


Religious observation accommodations: Policy and deadlines can be found at


Laboratory policy: Students must wear closed-end shoes (no flip flops, sandals or other shoes with open toes or heels) when attending all labs. Some lab procedures might require the use of safety glasses. Laboratory exercises might involve the manipulation of frog or chick embryos. All procedures will be done in accordance with government regulations protecting animal rights and welfare. If any student objects to the use of live material for such educational purposes, he or she is strongly requested to bring their concern to the instructor's attention at the start of the course (i.e., in the first week of classes). Depending on the circumstances, the student may be given an alternative lab assignment or advised to reconsider their enrollment in the course. All students are requested to treat all laboratory exercises and animals with the respect and maturity befitting serious scientific inquiry.


Honor Code: All students are expected to be familiar with and abide by the JMU Honor Code ( Forms of academic dishonesty include cheating on tests or homework, lending your work to another person to submit it as his or her own, reporting false data, selling or uploading unauthorized documents from a class, deliberately creating false information on a works cited or reference page; and plagiarism, presenting another personÕs writing, ideas or results as your own, whether intentional or not. Work submitted for this course must be your own and written for this course. To avoid plagiarism in writing, paraphrased and quoted materials must be properly cited in the text and referenced in the bibliography (see above); unnecessary or excessive use of direct quotations will be penalized.


Consult the following websites for information on educational rights and privacies:


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974

FERPA for Parents

FERPA for Faculty

JMU compliance with FERPA


Consult the Student Success Center website for information regarding disability services, student counseling and the writing center.