The Encyclopedia of Life (Eol.org) has added a new feature that is going to be very useful to biology instructors. It is the collections feature, and basically, it allows registered users (which is free) to create collections of organisms from the EOL database to share with their classes.
One of the biggest problems I always had as a lab instructor was finding relevant material for my lab practicals and quizzes. Often, when I wanted to include an image for the students to look at for their lab I resorted to the Google image search. A very useful feature, but the problem was that 1) I never really knew if the picture was actually the species I was looking for, and 2) all I got was the picture – no background information, species nomenclature. With the EOL collections, I get all of that.
The process of setting up a collection is actually very simple, and the staff at EOL has developed a tutorial to make the procedure simple for everyone. Simply set up an account, find the species you are looking for, and then make a collection. Once you have that collection, you can give others access and add it to a community. I set up several collections in just a few minutes:
So here are some suggested uses of this new feature
- Set up links to each of your lab specimens. At Appalachian State we had a conifer lab in which the students tour the campus and identified different trees based on a dichotomous key. Now, these can easily be linked to pages in EOL
- Link to specimens that you normally would not have access to in the lab. If you want your students to see a certain species, but lack the resources to purchase the specimen, you can now create a link to the species – which comes complete with a wealth of information.
- Conduct a campus bioblitz and record the species you find in your collections. You can even invite experts to share with your collections.
- As part of an active learning exercise. Choose a number of uncommon species and have students prepare a 2 minute paper to present to the class. At least this way you won’t be watching 10 presentations on otters and other warm fuzzy animals!
If you are looking to bring biodiversity to your labs and lectures, this is going to be a huge resource. If you can think of other uses, comment to this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org