Invertebrate Research Focus Boxes (RFBs)

Jan Pechenik's textbook Biology of the Invertebrates (6th Ed.) includes a series of 22 'Research Focus Boxes' (RFBs) scattered across chapters.  These RFBs highlight published biological research on particular taxonomic groups.  Each RFB distills the research question, methods, data, and conclusions relating to a single figure or table from a single published research article into a short (750-1000 word) summary and critical commentary.

In addition to assigning RFBs as class readings, several instructors have begun to ask students to write their own RFBs as a class assignment.  Students can learn a great deal from this exercise--about how to read a scientific paper, about the process by which scientific questions are answered, about details of experimental design and analysis, and about clear, explanatory prose--all in an assignment that is short enough to be carefully evaluated for scientific content and writing technique.  RFBs are a great way for students to put new-found knowledge of invertebrates to good use--especially since this website now provides an opportunity to potentially reach an audience well beyond the instructor!  Here we feature a collection of some of the best student-generated RFBs from these instructors, organized by taxon.

If you are a course instructor interested in using this material as supplementary reading in your course, in creating a similar assignment for your class, or in submitting material for inclusion on this website, see our Instructor Information.

Student-generated RFBs

Porifera and Placozoa

Erica Levine: Defensive Strategies of Sponges (Ribiero et al. 2012) RDP


Jake Oster: Sexual Plasticity and Self-Fertilization in a Clonal Sea Anemone (Schlesinger et al. 2010)RDP

Luke Rein: Using Statolith Composition to Determine Migration patterns in Box Jellies (Kingsford and Mooney 2012)RDP


Daniel Schwab: Stealthy Predation by an Invasive Ctenophore, Mnemiopsis leidyi (Colin et al. 2010)JDA


Anna Matthews: Flatworm Orgies: Just a Day in the Life of Macrostomum lignano (Janicke and Scharer 2009)RDP


Frances Armstrong: Maintenance of Asexuality in Bdelloid Rotifers (Wilson and Sherman 2010)JDA



Briana Seapy: Gastropod embryos tolerate thermal stress...or not (Zippay and Hofmann 2010)JAP

Matt Snyder: Nudibranch Defense Using Stolen Hydroid Polyps (Martin and Walther 2002)JDA

Erin Spencer: Is it playtime yet? Observing behavior in Octopus vulgaris (Kuba et al. 2006)JDA

Stephanie Sammann: Impact of temperature & prey shell thickness on feeding of oyster drills (Lord and Whitlatch 2013)JAP

Abigail Tyrell: Effects of temperature and CO2 on bivalve larvae and juveniles (Talmage and Gobler 2011)JAP



Kara Gadeken: Phenotypic Plasticity in Mantis Shrimp Vision (Cheroske et al. 2006) JDA

Kelly Boisvert: Too Cold to Eat (Whitman et al. 2001) JAP


Courtney Wickel: Cryptobiosis in Tardigrada (Jonsson and Rebecchi 2002)JDA

Salma Abdel-Raheem: Tardigrade Anhydrobiosis: Sleeping Beauty or Rip van Winkle? (Hengherr et al. 2008)JDA





Jessica Poppe: The perils of reduced pH on sea urchin development (Havenhand et al. 2008)JAP

Nancy Shrodes: Effects of elevated temperatures and elevated CO2 on seastar growth (Gooding et al. 2009)JAP

Sam Beshevkin: Effects of low salinity on echinoderm larval growth (George and Walker 2007)JAP



Faculty sponsors: JDAJon Allen, College of William and Mary; JAPJan Pechenik, Tufts University; RDPRobert Podolsky, College of Charleston


Information for course instructors

Use. Instructors might consider using these materials in several ways:

  1. Encouraging students to use the webpage as a general resource for exploring information about research on invertebrate animals.

  2. Assigning particular student RFBs to supplement course readings. 

  3. Suggesting entries as examples for students to write their own RFBs. 

  4. Networking with other faculty teaching about invertebrates and communicating about this assignment and other aspects of teaching 

  5. Using the RFBs as a source of ideas for material in their courses.

Assignment. For an example of an assignment that you could use in your class to generate student RFBs, see this class website.

Submission. To submit material generated in your course for potential inclusion on this website, please follow these guidelines:

  1. Contact the site editor with the title and taxonomic ID of organisms that are the focus of the entry or entries you are interested in submitting.

  2. Act as associate editor, supervising the revision of the work to meet writing standards and general guidelines as described below.

  3. Submit no more than 1-2 entries per semester per instructor, although you may propose more.  Try to submit a list in priority order.  Preference may be given to entries that add to taxonomic diversity on the site.

  4. Follow this general guide in preparing the entry in coordination with the student who wrote it:

  1. The entry should discuss the general biological issue, specific question(s), essential methods, relevant results, and important biological conclusions of one (or at most two) published primary literature articles.

  2. The entry should be 500 to 1000 words, composed and submitted in .docx (final format will be Calibri 12 pt.).  Use 1.5 line spacing for the text and 1.15 spacing for the figure and table legends.

  3. The entry should be headed by a brief title, the students name and affiliation, and the full citation(s) for the focal article(s).

  4. The text should be accompanied by a single data graphic (table or figure).  The graphic may be redrawn or changed to coordinate with the text.  The graphic should be numbered, should include an appropriate caption, and should be referred to by number in the text.

  5. See any of the entries on this site for examples of final formatting.

  6. Gain final permission from the student to publish their work, and send the entry to the site editor.