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Abstract Detail

Tropical Biology Section

Shumway, Scott W. [1], Letcher, Susan L. [2], Friberg, Alexander [3], DeMelo, Diane [4].

RainforestPlants: A Web-Based Teaching Tool For Students Of Tropical Biology.

Undergraduate curricula do an excellent job of informing students of the importance of biodiversity and the drivers of the extinction crisis that is currently threatening the world’s biota. However, an essential component of studying this biological diversity is being able to identify, name, and describe species, families, and phyla. Increasingly these important skills are becoming the domain of a small number of specialists and are often all but ignored in undergraduate education.
Students visiting the tropics for the first time are rightfully overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of plant species that they encounter. Even experienced tropical biologists are often satisfied if they can identify a plant to the level of family or genus. Alwin Gentry (1993) claimed that “Most neotropical plants are surprisingly easy to identify to family, even in sterile condition.” Inspired by this overly optimistic statement by the indisputable expert on the topic, we created RainforestPlants (
RainforestPlants is an internet teaching tool designed to help undergraduates learn about neotropical plants, namely those found in the lowland rainforest of the La Selva Biological Station (Organization for Tropical Studies) in Costa Rica. Rather than trying to cover all 132 families of vascular plants found at La Selva, RainforestPlants focuses on 65 of the most common families of flowering plants likely to be encountered in the neotropics.
RainforestPlants includes sections on how to examine a plant in the field, two different methods for assigning plants to the family level, and family pages. A description (English and Spanish) of each family is accompanied by a set of field marks that are readily observed with the naked eye or use of hand lens. Color photographs illustrate the field marks and representative species.

Broader Impacts:

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1 - Wheaton College, Department of Biology, 26 East Main Street, Norton, MA, 02766, USA
2 - Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica
3 - Wheaton College, 26 East Main Street, Norton, MA, 02766, USA
4 - Wheaton College, Library and Information Services, 26 East Main Street, Norton, MA, 02766, USA

tropical rainforest
tropical botany
La Selva, Costa Rica
tropical plant families.

Presentation Type: Poster:Posters for Sections
Session: P
Location: Hall A/Convention Center
Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2010
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: PTB002
Abstract ID:815

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