Exploring Fish Diversity in Australia's Marine Ecoregions

Andrew Fischer
University of Tasmania, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
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Summary

This activity accomplishes two tasks. First it teaches students about the concepts of species richness and biodiversity using a global data set of marine fish diversity. Second, it teaches them about application programming interfaces and how to directly access global biodiversity data directly from a data repository. A well annotated MATLAB Livescript and datasets are provided assist with instruction.

Learning Goals

Students will be introduced to the concepts of species richness and biodiversity and how to calculate the Simpson's reciprocal index. Students will also be introduced to the concept of APIs and provided instruction on how to access and query data repositories to import data directly into MATLAB. This activity utilizes a MATLAB Live script and provides annotated instruction on some fairly basic computational concepts, from matrix indexing and manipulation, scripting and creating loops. Initially, students will be led through the process of creating a script to make the calculation. They will examine the results and answer a couple discussion questions around biodiversity management.

Context for Use

This exercise is typically uses in early to mid level university environmental science classes. It is a lab activity that takes place in the computer lab. Two-three hours is allocated for this exercise. Students are expected to have some very basic knowledge of MATLAB, including knowledge of indexing matrices, creating loops and scripting. Students should also be familiar with measuring biodiversity and these concepts are typically covered in the lecture preceding this lab activity. The activity can be easily implemented into existing environmental science and conservation biology classes. However, students should be familiar with programming and scripting

Description and Teaching Materials

A MATLAB live script, an ESRI shapefile and an excell spreadsheet are provided. The ESRI Shapefile is the coastline of Australia. The marine ecoregion shapefile, a hierarchical bioregionalisation of coastal and shelf areas, can be downloaded from within the LiveScript and is available to download here:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/marine-ecoregions-of-the-world-a-bioregionalization-of-coastal-and-shelf-areas.

The Excel spreadsheet is a data global data set of fish diversity collected and compile by the Reef Life Survey

https://reeflifesurvey.com/

The Reef Life Survey data can also be accessed through the Australian Ocean Data Network,

https://portal.aodn.org.au/search


Zip file with Live Script, shapefile and datafile (Zip Archive 4.2MB Sep25 19)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Please see the comments above. Typically this is a hands on lab activity with a high amount of instructor interaction with the students. Students typically need help with all aspects of MATLAB programming. Many of them have had little exposure to programming and computation

Assessment

Students answer the three discussion questions after the first part, assessing their understanding of species richness and diversity and complete the challenge task at the end of the LiveScript

References and Resources

Marine ecoregion of the world.

https://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/marine-ecoregions-of-the-world-a-bioregionalization-of-coastal-and-shelf-areas.

The Excel spreadsheet is a data global data set of fish diversity collected and compile by the Reef Life Survey

https://reeflifesurvey.com/

The Reef Life Survey data can also be accessed through the Australian Ocean Data Network,

https://portal.aodn.org.au/search