Sample Activities

ADW project staff and collaborating faculty have created a suite of learning activities that use data from the Animal Diversity Web, extracted with Quaardvark. In each activity students construct their own searches and extract data sets that are large enough for them to find patterns. Below is a list of activities suitable for different types of undergraduate courses, followed by a full list of activities. Activity titles link to individual pages with downloadable activity documents.

Suitable for introductory biology students:

Suitable for ecology, conservation, wildlife classes:

Suitable for mammalogy, ornithology, vertebrate biology, evolution classes:

Full List of Activities

  • An Introduction to the Animal Diversity Web and Quaardvark: This exercise serves as an introduction to the features of the Animal Diversity Web and the Quaardvark query tool by faculty collaborator Matthew Wund, The College of New Jersey.

  • Taxonomic Diversity and the Environment: The purpose of this activity is to see if there is a correlation between taxonomic diversity and environment (e.g., tropics vs temperate; altitude). This activity is set up as a way to explore the Quaardvark database of the Animal Diversity Web. By Dr. Jessica Light, Texas A & M University.

  • Introduction to Data Analysis: In this substantial activity students are introduced to analysis of data. They test their own hypotheses using ADW data, and write up their findings in abbreviated scientific paper format. They are learn some basic properties of variables, and do simple graphing and basic statistics using Excel. The activity includes student handouts on writing, graphics, and basic statistics. This activity was developed and written by Professor Brian Scholtens at the College of Charleston. He ran it with students over a four week period.

  • Ecosystem Productivity and Resource Acquisition: This exercise structures student exploration of the relationship between productivity in different kinds of habitats and aspects of life history that affect resource acquisition strategies, by faculty collaborator Matthew Wund, The College of New Jersey.

  • Life History Impacts on Number of Offspring: An activity developed and implemented by Dr. Patricia Burrowes, University of Puerto Rico, for use in a General Zoology course. This activity explores the impact of various life history characteristics on the number of offspring in New World mice (Cricetidae).

  • Relating Natural History Traits to Basal Metabolic Rate: This activity, designed by faculty participant Karen Francl, Radford University, has students explore the relationship between various natural history traits and basal metabolic rate.

  • Body Mass and Basal Metabolic Rate in Birds and Mammals: In this activity students extract and graph data sets of body mass and basal metabolic rate for birds and mammals, and compare the relationship between the two measurements across the two groups. This activity was created by Mr. David Wooten for his Introductory Zoology class at Washtenaw Community College.

  • Patterns in Life Histories and Conservation Risk: These exercises explore conservation risk and its relationship with various life history characteristics, using several groups of mammals.

  • Reproductive Strategies in Metatherians and Eutherians: This exercise explores the different reproductive investment strategies in metatherian and eutherian mammals, by faculty collaborator Jim Ryan, Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

  • Social System Variation in Mammals: The purpose of this activity is to explore social system variation within an Order or Family, and correlate social system to body size, sexual dimorphism, mating type, etc. This activity is set up as a way to explore the Quaardvark database of the Animal Diversity Web. Submitted by Dr. Jessica Light, Texas A & M University and used in Mammalogy.

  • Body Size and Latitude in Aquatic Mammals: The purpose of this activity is to see if there is a correlation between body size of primarily aquatic mammals and latitude. This activity is set up as a way to explore the Quaardvark database of the Animal Diversity Web. Submitted by Dr. Jessica Light, Texas A & M University and used in Mammalogy.

  • Sexual Dimorphism and Reproduction in Mammals: The purpose of this activity is to explore sexual dimorphism within an Order or Family, and correlate it to type of reproduction (monogamous, polygynous, etc.), number of offspring, lifespan, and key behavior. This activity is set up as a way to explore the Quaardvark database of the Animal Diversity Web. Submitted by Dr. Jessica Light, Texas A & M University and used in Mammalogy.

  • Convergent Evolution in Mammals - Influence of Life History and Environment: The purpose of this activity is to find examples of convergent evolution between marsupial and placental mammals (or distantly related mammals within Metatheria or Eutheria). This activity is set up as a way to explore the Quaardvark database of the Animal Diversity Web. Submitted by Dr. Jessica Light, Texas A & M University and used in Mammalogy.

  • Convergent Evolution in Mammals - Influence of Habitat and Locomotion: The purpose of this activity is to find examples of convergent evolution based on habitat and locomotion type in that habitat. This activity is set up as a way to explore the Quaardvark database of the Animal Diversity Web. Submitted by Dr. Jessica Light, Texas A & M University and used in Mammalogy.

  • Bird Beak Structure and Diet: Students analyze photos of birds with different diet types to test the hypothesis that morphological adaptations for different food types are consistent within a trophic category and different across trophic categories (e.g., piscivores generally have long, thin beaks, whereas terrestrial mammal predators have squarish beaks). Diet information and beak photos are drawn from the Animal Diversity Web using Quaardvark. Students can use the free image analysis program "Image J" (from the National Institutes of Health) to determine beak size and shape from photos. This activity was developed by Dr. Keith Pecor for his Ecology class at The College of New Jersey.

  • Measuring Bite Force from Skulls: An activity designed by Ben Wasleske and Sylia Bautista , students in a Mammalogy course taught by Dr. Chris Yahnke, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. The purpose of this lab activity is to use images of dog and cat skulls to calculate maximum estimated bite force. The activity uses Quaardvark and Image J, a free online photo tool.

  • Why Grow Big?: An activity designed by Dr. Chris Yahnke of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for Mammalogy. It explores whether different feeding strategies of rodents correlates to size.

  • Carnivores of India: An activity to help students explore Indian mammal diversity, designed by Dr. Chris Yahnke of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for a Mammalogy course.

  • Endangered Species Lab: Students investigate a set of life history characteristics in a set of animal taxa to determine what most strongly influences conservation risk (by faculty collaborator Karen Francl, Radford University).

  • Primate Morphology Query: This activity was specifically developed to demonstrate the ability of Quaardvark to query ADW images as well as text. Students explore several aspects of primate morphology, extracting and comparing images of skulls, other bones, and teeth. Topics include the association of binocular vision with life history and cranial structure, diet and dental morphology, and other patterns.

  • Generalized Sexual Dimorphism And Mating System Exercise: Students test whether mating systems of different species correlate with size dimorphism between the sexes. Birds are the taxon specified in the example, but could easily use other groups. Uses Excel to graph data, doesn't include statistical tests, but could.

  • Mating Systems and Sexual Dimorphism in Aves: A specific application of the general idea listed above, by faculty collaborator Alec Lindsay, Northern Michigan University.

  • Mass and Lifespan in Aves: Students extract data on lifespan and mass, make scatterplot with Excel.

  • Sociality And Habitat In Aves: Students explore relationships between solitary vs. social behavior and preferred habitat types in birds.

  • Exploration of Vertebrate Life Histories: This activity is inspired by Wooten's Body Mass and Metabolic Rate activity and Lindsay's Sociality and Habitat activity. It adds mammals to the latter, and concludes with a self-directed independent inquiry. There are instructions and a student worksheet. The activity was written by faculty collaborator Kurt Galbreath of Northern Michigan University.

  • Form and Function: This assignment is more open-ended than most. Students have to come up with the variables themselves. "The goal of this project is to enhance your understanding of the relationships between animal form and function and the various tradeoffs that organisms experience as a result" (by faculty collaborator Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College).

  • Economy Of Wildlife: Students use Quaardvark to identify sets of wildlife species with economic value (extractive or touristic), then consider conservation status and other factors (by faculty collaborator Karen Francl, Radford University).

  • Ecotree Exercise: Students use Quaardvark to extract physical, behavioral, ecological characters for Peromyscus (deer mice) species for use in creating a pair of simple cladograms.

  • Terrestrial/Aquatic Comparisons: students explore trophic interactions in two structurally different kinds of habitats: terrestrial grasslands and aquatic lakes and ponds. The goal is characterize some major differences in food webs/trophic interactions, taxonomic makeup of those communities, and the kinds of feeding styles that dominate in each system.

  • African/Malagasy Primates Queries: These are two sets of similar activities developed as prep activities for field classes, one going to Uganda, one to Madagascar. They address the following questions:

  • Query 1: "What is the expected relationship between mating systems and occurrence of sexual dimorphism in a species?" African or Malagasy version
  • Query 2: "What is the expected relationship between diet and activity period (nocturnality vs. diurnality) in most animals? Is there a reason to expect this will differ in (African or Malagasy) primates?"
  • Query 3: "What natural history features of (African or Malagasy) primates might make them threatened or endangered? What natural history features seem to protect these primate species from becoming threatened or endangered?"
  • Query 4: "Is there a taxonomic bias in which (African or Malagasy) primates are nocturnal or diurnal? Is there a taxonomic bias to diet? Degree of sociality? Might this help explain why diurnal primates have largely not expanded into non-folivorous or frugivorous niches?"
  • Query 5: "What is the expected relationship between diet and body size in animals? Is this the same pattern observed in (African or Malagasy) primates? Another primate group?"
  • Query 6: "What is the expected relationship between number of offspring per reproductive effort and investment in offspring in a species? Are there any special features of primates ((African or Malagasy) primates in particular) that might affect this relationship?"
  • Query 7: "consider how communities of (African or Malagasy) primates partition resources to minimize competition? Are there differences in habitat use, activity period, diet, body size?"
  • Query 8: "test for the effect on lifespan of several natural history features: body size, degree of sociality, activity pattern (diurnal or nocturnal), and whether or not there are energy saving strategies (aestivation)." African or Malagasy version