investigative labs in systematics

Michael O'Donnell michael.odonnell at MAIL.CC.TRINCOLL.EDU
Sat Sep 6 14:36:24 EST 1997

Sue Schenk wrote:

> We've changed over to investigative labs in intro bio mostly, but
>some faculty want to include a systematics lab. Our normal format is to do

I don't see the two as mutually exclusive.  The process that systematists
go through is a good example of scientific investigation.  Check out the
proceedings of the 18th ABLE Conf if you have it.  Linda Collins and
Charles Nelson (UTenn) presented a nice mini-workshp on constructing
phylogenetic trees using fruits and cones from various trees.  We do an
exercise (1st lab of semester) where the students examine several
"critters" (cartoonish figures), record their characters and character
states, and then propose several alternative phylogenetic hypotheses.  (In
fact, I'm setting up the lab for our first week now!)  In groups, they then
present their hypotheses, and re-examine their own hypotheses based upon
others' presentations.  Lastly, they enter their character states data into
MacClade, and use it to help them determine the most parsimonious tree.
There is no "best" phylogeny; students must determine which characters are
more "important" than others.  Many people use the "caminalcules" from
Sokal, Robert R. 1966. Numerical taxonomy.  Sci. Amer. 215 (Dec):106-116.
We don't use more than one week for this, however.  But UMinn. (Rick
Pfeifer et al.) do spend 2+ labs on "evolutionary relationships and
hypothesis testing."  Instead of imaginary animals like we use, they use
imaginary plants called "MacPlants."   They probably do something more
along the lines of what you were thinking.  Let me know if you'd like more

Good luck,

Michael A. O'Donnell                           (\__/)  ."    ". )) *
Dept. of Biology                               /O 0  ./      .'    *
Trinity College                               {O__,   \    {       *
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michael.odonnell at             .(   _(   )_.'      *           '---."_ _ _&         *
phone: (860)297-2228                                               *
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