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A walk through the woods: data analysis of structural adaptations in wood

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Overview: Students will 1) form hypotheses about the influence of environmental variables on wood structure, 2) test their hypotheses using wood structure data, 3) interpret their results in light of environmental pressures and physiological function and 4) revise hypotheses as necessary.
Authors: DeSaix, Jean S.
Feinstein, Elena M.
Zanne, Amy E.
Instruction Level: Introductory and advanced undergraduate biology courses, high school AP biology
Keywords hypothesis formulation, hypothesis testing, data visualization, graphing, adaptation, environmental pressures, wood structure and function, ecology, botany, forestry, climate change
Date Published: 2012-06-15T15:03:34Z
Duration: Fifteen to thirty minute in-class lesson with one hour homework assignment, which can be adapted and/or extended as an in-class lab. Suggestions for further extension activities are included, as well as extra background information for the instructor.
Requirements: For in-class lesson, no additional materials are necessary. For homework assignment or laboratory exercise, students will need computers with Internet connection and spreadsheet software with graphing capabilities (e.g., Excel, Open Office, Google spreadsheet). Students will need to download a data set. For more advanced students, statistical analyses for correlations and summary statistics are possible and thus relevant statistical software would be necessary.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of relationships between plant structure and physiological function, specifically in terms of mechanical strength and water transport in stems.
  • Students will investigate changes in structural adaptations along an environmental gradient (i.e., latitude).
  • Students will form hypotheses.
  • Students will use data to test hypotheses.
  • Students will graph/visualize data and interpret results.
  • Students will reevaluate hypotheses based on results.
Prerequisite Knowledge: The lesson requires knowledge of natural selection and adaptations as well as the hierarchical nature of names (Family, Genus, species) with binomial nomenclatures. A good resource on plant names and hierarchies can be found at the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website <http://www.mobot.org/mobot/research/APweb/>. Continued in download file . . .
Instructor Background: This section includes plant structure/function as background to the in-class lesson. General stem discussion: Plants have primary growth by which they grow taller via meristematic tissue at their tips. Continued in download file . . .
Description of Activity: The activity begins with a pre-question. This question (included in the slide set) may be used as an introductory attention-grabber or as a pre-test. Continued in download file . . .
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