Using Project EDDIE modules in Introduction to Biodiversity

Mary Mulcahy, University of Pittsburgh-Bradford

About this Course

Introduction to Biodiversity

Lecture and Lab

Introductory Undergraduate

Majors and Non-Majors


students in the course

students in the section

EDDIE Module Developed

This module is intended to encourage beginning college students to take a second look at plants. This module will introduce students to the remarkable natural vegetation and ecological habitats in the United States through exploration of canopy height and abiotic factors found at the core terrestrial field sites of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project.

Jump to: Course Context | Teaching Details | Student Outcomes

Relationship of EDDIE Module(s) to my Course

No special preparation was required. The activity was tested at the end of a survey course that covered key characteristics of plant and animal phyla as well as plant and animal anatomy.  The activity was intended to provide both quantitative skills as well as providing relevance to terms covered in the course such as lignin, xylem, and transpiration. In the future, the activity will be completed early in the course and will complement a hands-on lab activity covering the major groups of plants and measuring tree height using a clinometer.

Teaching Details

What key suggestions would you give to a colleague before they used the activity in their teaching?
Have fun and freely share your enthusiasm for plants. Try to leave enough of time for students to explore the dataset on their own (activity C) and to share what they found with you or with their classmates.

How did you address challenges in teaching with the module?
I listened to wisdom from mentors and colleagues that less is often more and that students benefit from quantitative analysis combined with relaxed discussion of patterns in nature. I also listened to mentors that activities are more fun if students are given some choice about what will be their focus.

Student Outcomes

At the beginning of the activity, students seemed pretty lost in deciding what variables might reflect aspects of vegetation structure. After the activity, they were more confident recognizing variables that might be related to vegetation structure. They also appeared to have greater confidence in assessing the strength of a relationship between two variables from a scatterplot. Real datasets from natural habitats have a lot of variability, and students were introduced to the importance of considering variability in drawing conclusions from the data.

This activity is introductory and reinforces basic data skills; students had to look through the dataset (which had many columns) and decide the best variables to graph. Students gained practice choosing independent and dependent variables from among the many choices and drawing conclusions from the graphs they created.