Active Inquiry using a Large Natural History Database

The Animal Diversity Web, built by and for students since 1995. Serving up to 4 million pages monthly to 300,000 users. Over 60 institutions across North America have contributed taxon accounts through a structured, scaffolded online template. Taxon accounts are edited before publication, resulting in a database of over 4000 vetted taxon accounts. Large enough to discover evolutionary patterns via ADW-Quaardvark!

Classes at over 30 institutions have used Quaardvark and found it a valuable way to support active inquiry in undergraduate biology courses.

"It was awesome to have the freedom to work with so many variables and compare them all."

"The students enjoyed the exercise and I thought it worked really well. I've only spoken with one student about it in any detail and she liked it so much that she measured extra birds from additional feeding categories just to see what the outcomes would be. You can't beat that!"

Your task:

Find a partner.

Choose an example activity to explore from the list below - spend a minutes exploring the query/report in light of one of those questions.

If you have time – come up with your own query or modification of a query to address a specific learning goal in one of your courses.

What did you find?

Note: Click on the title of the activity to go straight to an already-set-up query. Click on the url below the description to go to a downloadable version of the activity (as it was created by an instructor for their class).

Why Grow Big?: What are the benefits or correlates of large size in rodents?

Predict a relationship between diet and size – what kind of data do you need to test that hypothesis?

Query: Search for Rodentia (hit submit to see how many species we have data for).

Report: Modify to ask for mass and length data. Add a column that lists primary diet under a single column.

How would you analyze these data to determine whether diet influences size in rodents?

Sexual Dimorphism and Mating System in Aves: How does mating system impact sexual dimorphism?

Query: Search for Aves.

Report: Sexual dimorphism and mating system reported in columns.


Economy of Wildlife:  How do humans benefit from wildlife and how are wildlife impacted by humans?

Query: Choose Mammals and Birds of the Nearctic region.

Report: Report positive economic benefits of animals on humans. Also report conservation status of species.

What is the relationship between positive economic benefit to humans and conservation status?


Life History Impacts on Offspring: How do various life history characteristics impact the number of offspring?

Query: Choose one or several taxa, perhaps mammalian orders or families or compare across Classes of animals.

Report: Report masses of animals, number of offspring, temperate vs. tropical habitats, diet categories, or other characteristics you’d like to explore.

What are the relationships? Do they differ among taxa? What kinds of analyses or visualizations would help test or view these relationships?

Body Size and Latitude in Aquatic Mammals: Testing Bergmann's rule.

Query: Mammalia, modify by aquatic habitat.

Report: A geographic range or habitat proxy of latitude.

Primate Morphology: How is morphology impacted by life history characteristics in primates?

Query: Primates.

Report: Various aspects of life history and primate cranial morphology, compare!

Try these on your own later!

Bird Beak Structure and Diet: How does diet impact beak morphology?

Query: Collect images of bird beaks from ADW and use ImageJ to measure attributes.

Report: Report diets and correlate with beak morphology.


Lifespan and Mass: What is the relationship between lifespan and mass in animals? Does the relationship vary among taxa?

Query: Choose Animalia.

Report: Report average mass and average lifespan.

What analysis is necessary to characterize the relationship between mass and lifespan in animals? What is the relationship? Change the query to narrow to specific taxa, is the relationship the same across all animal taxa?

Introduction to Data Analysis:  Students are introduced to data analysis through downloading Quaardvark data.

Students do an independent analysis, write up their findings in an abbreviated scientific paper format, and do simple graphing and statistics.

When you're done, please answer a couple of *really* brief questions on our survey.