investigative labs in systematics
Douglas P. Jensen
jensendp at DIANA.HOLLINS.EDU
Mon Sep 8 10:07:59 EST 1997
I've got two suggestions for this type of lab plus a couple of other dry
labs, although none of the four are experimental.
1. I like to do what I call 'The nuts and bolts of classification'. The
students pair up and are given a bunch of screws, nails, and other
fasteners. Then they are required to come up with a classification system.
Sometimes I let them take this home. They then present their system to the
class, after which I always ask whose classification is the correct one and
whose is the best. I want each student to claim that hers is the best
system, but most of them are too nice. I like using nuts and bolts because
they cannot say 'Well, I know X is related to Y, so I'll classify them
together.' It gets them thinking about what characteristics would be best
to use in a biological classification system.
2. Another lab I have not taught, but did as an undergrad, was to create a
character matrix for a bunch of organisms. We then made a similarity
matrix, and used it to create 'trees' by hand. Of course this is quite
phenetic (and I was at Michigan--go figure!), so people may be turned off by
it, but it does get students thinking about making complete data sets and
about which characters might be good and which might not be.
3 and 4. In systematics classes, I have had students do groundplan
divergence and polyploidy/biosystematics exercises, but these are dry labs,
and I think they are beyond intro biology students.
Douglas P. Jensen, Assistant Professor of Biology
PO Box 9615
Roanoke, Virginia 24020
jensendp at diana.hollins.edu
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