The Scientific Method
Introduction to Life Sciences
Life Sciences Orientation (ESGQ)
The aim of this chapter is to provide you with an overview of the skills that you will need to develop as a Life Scientist. In this chapter you will learn how to gather evidence using the scientific method. The scientific method is a systematic way of testing a theory. It involves gathering and analysing information in order to come to an objective conclusion about the validity of a theory. The scientific method requires that we constantly re-examine our understanding, by testing new evidence with our current theories, and making changes to those theories if the evidence does not meet the test. The scientific method is a powerful tool you will use throughout the Physical Sciences and Life Sciences.
What is Life Sciences? (ESGS)
Life Sciences is the scientific study of living things. It involves many levels of investiagtion: from the study of the interactions of organic molecules to the interactions of animals and plants with their environment. The list below contains some of the various branches of Life Sciences.
- Anatomy (plant and animal)
- Environmental Studies
- Physiology (plant and animal)
- Sociobiology (animal behaviour)
Why study Life Sciences? (ESGT)
Here are some reasons to study Life Sciences:
- To increase knowledge of key biological concepts, processes, systems and theories.
- To develop the ability to critically evaluate and debate scientific issues and processes.
- To develop scientific skills and ways of thinking scientifically that enables you to see the flaws in pseudo-science in popular media.
- To provide useful knowledge and skills that are needed in everyday living.
- To create a greater awareness of the ways in which biotechnology and knowledge of Life Sciences has benefited humankind.
- To show the ways in which humans have impacted negatively on the environment and organisms living in the environment.
- To develop a deep appreciation of the unique diversity of biomes In Southern Africa, both past and present, and the importance of conservation.
- To create an awareness of what it means to be a responsible citizen in terms of the environment and life-style choices that they make.
- To create an awareness of the contributions of South African scientists.
- To expose you to the range and scope of biological studies to stimulate interest in and create awareness of possible specialities and fields of study.
- To provide sufficient background for further studies and careers in one or more of the biological sub-disciplines.
Specific aims (ESGV)
In order to guide your progress through the year, and make sure that you benefit in the ways listed above, there are three specific aims for the year:
- Specific Aim 1: Acquire new knowledge: your knowledge of the Life Sciences will grow this year as you acquire a new understanding of Life Sciences concepts, processes, phenomena, mechanisms, principles, theories, laws and models. You will see new connections between fields and topics, and learn to evaluate and analyse what you learn.
- Specific Aim 2: Investigate Phenomena in the Life Sciences: this year you will gain experience in conducting science experiments, practical work and investigations.
- Specific Aim 3: Understand the applications of Life Sciences in everyday life: you will gain an appreciation of the way that science applies in everyday life, as well as gain an understanding of some of the history of scientific discoveries and the relationship between indigenous knowledge and science.
An A to Z of possible careers in Life Sciences (ESGW)
Ever wondered what you can do with Life Sciences after school? Below are some careers which you could study:
- Agronomist: someone who works to improve the quality and production of crops.
- Animal scientist: a researcher in selecting, breeding, feeding and managing of domestic animals, such as cows, sheep and pigs.
- Biochemist: someone who investigates the chemical composition and behaviour of the molecules that make up living things and uses this knowledge to try understand the causes of diseases and find cures.
- Botanist: someone who studies plants and their interaction with the environment.
- Developmental biologist: studies the development of an animal from the fertilised egg through to birth.
- Ecologist: a person who looks at the relationships between organisms and their environment.
- Food Scientist: someone who studies the biological, chemical and physical nature of food to ensure it is safely produced, preserved and stored, and they also investigate how to make food more nutritious and flavourful.
- Geneticist: a researcher who studies inheritance and conducts experiments to investigate the causes and possible cures of inherited genetic disorders and how traits are passed on from one generation to the next.
- Horticulturalist: a person who works in orchards and with garden plants and they aim to improve growing and culturing methods for home owners, communities and public areas.
- Marine biologist: a researcher who studies the relationships between plants and animals in the ocean and how they function and develop. They also investigate ways to minimise human impact on the ocean and its effects, such as over fishing and pollution.
- Medical doctor or nurse: someone who uses the current latest understanding of the causes and treatments for disease to treat people who are ill or improve a person's well-being.
- Medical illustrator: someone who illustrates and draws parts of the human body to be used in textbooks, publications and presentations.
- Microbiologist: a researcher who studies microscopic organisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae and yeast and investigates how these organisms affect animals and plants.
- Nutritionist: someone who gives advice to individuals or groups on good nutritional practices to either maintain or improve their health and to live a healthy lifestyle.
- Palaeontologist: a researcher who studies fossils of plants and animals to trace and reconstruct evolution, prehistoric environments and past life.
- Pharmacologist: a scientist who develops new or improved drugs or medicines and conducts experiments to test the effects of drugs and any undesirable side effects.
- Physiologist: a researcher who studies the internal functions animals and plants during normal and abnormal conditions.
- Science teacher: someone who helps students in different areas of science, whether it is at primary school, high school or university.
- Science writer: someone who writes and reports about scientific issues, new discoveries or researcher, or health concerns for newspapers, magazines, books, television and radio.
- Veterinarian: someone who looks after the health and wellbeing of pets, domestic animals, animals in game parks and zoos.
- Zoologist: a researcher who studies the behaviour, interactions, origins and life processes of different animal groups.
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The Scientific Method