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CIPRES Outreach

Phylogenetics Resources for Educators

In addition to the short movie "Discovering the Great Tree of Life", CIPRES has sponsored (or co-sponsored) the following three teaching modules, freely available for use by educators.  The only thing we ask is that you credit NSF and CIPRES.  We are very interested in responding to the needs of the education community, indeed we sponsored a recent study investigating teaching with the tree of life.  One of the students who conducted that study has also prepared a useful review of issues in visualizing the tree of life.  We would value feedback on any of these exercises, or suggestions of further resources needed.

The Cladisticules.  This exercise is intended to accompany a basic introduction to the logic of cladistics and tree building.  It is appropriate for advanced high school students and beginning university students.

Getting to the Roots of Plant Evolution.  This exercise covers the major events in land plant evolution and introduces the main plant groups alive today.  The information in the exercise is used to create a cladistic data matrix, and students can construct a cladogram for the land plants.  This exercise also introduces the use of different types of character data (in this case, genomic data) in phylogenetic analysis.  This exercise is slightly more complex than the Cladisticules, and is appropriate for high school students who have already completed the Cladisticules exercise, or for lower-division university students.

We suggest that living material of each plant group be present in the classroom (representatives are readily available in any region of the US).  The teacher should present the Powerpoint on a computer or on overheads, then help the students complete the exercise on their paper handout.  For a refresher on how to turn a data matrix into a cladogram, see the Cladisticules exercise (especially its Teacher Guide).

Building the Tree of Life.  This web-based exercise introduces the use of genetic sequence data in phylogenetic analysis, and highlights the challenges of uncovering the evolutionary relationships of all organisms (the complete Tree of Life).  Students are introduced to the idea of computerized phylogenetic analysis, and are shown what a genetic sequence alignment and phylogenetic software interface look like.  This exercise is intended for students who have already completed introductory cladistic exercises like the ones above.