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Peer Review




Overall Rating:

4.6 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.4 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Jul 09, 2003 by Biology Editorial Board

The CalPhotos website - which includes almost 50,000 images of algae, fungi,
plants, animals, fossils, and landscapes - is part of the larger UC Berkeley
Digital Library Project. Materials can be searched by photo type, name,
location, collection, photographer, or any combintation thereof. All but the Corel stock photos are useable for nonprofit uses; links may be made to any photo. There is both a standard and a custom query search form that should allow the user to locate photos on any topic or organism contained within the collection. Once located, each photo is extensively annotated. There is also a mechanism in place to verify identification of organisms. Numerous organizations and volunteers support this project.

Learning Goals:

Users will gain an improved understanding and appreciation of of California
natural history through use of this site.

Target Student Population:

The general public, as well as all levels of Middle School through Upper Division College Students, will be able to use this website to learn about algae, fungi, plants, animals, and people of California.

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:

Some basic knowledge of biology and California climate may be useful to
efficiently search the different database. Users should be familiar with use of their web browser and search functions.

Type of Material:

Collection / Database

Recommended Uses:

This website can be used to learn about, identify, and study the uniformity and diversity of biological organisms in California - and their relation to
different environments.

Technical Requirements:

HTML and the ability to view images.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars

Quality of Content:4.7, 4.9 = 4.8

  • Material is near complete and continues to expand as more information is
    gathered about California natural history
  • High quality images
  • Accurate and includes different approaches for understanding specimens
  • Site has an organized quality control procedure to correct any misidentifications of organisms
  • Accurate annotations for each photo clearly specify location and/or object of the photo as well as verification of identity
  • Wide range of participants helps ensure database completeness, or at least continuing improvement
  • Database well thought-out and organized

  • Since anyone can make an entry, errors or misidentifications may be in database, even if only transient

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.4 stars

Potential Effectiveness: 4.0, 4.9 = 4.4

  • The wide range of materials provided in the site can be adapted to any situation both within the classroom and as out-of-class assignments/explorations
  • Builds knowledge through a strong database
  • Contains lots of information for interdisciplinary approach to California natural history
  • Demonstrates relationships by grouping organisms and concepts together
  • Assignments can be developed to accompany this website

  • Since the site is not designed exclusively as an educational resource, use of the site will require assignments with explicit instructions to help students extract information beyond occurrence and photos
  • Relationships between objects in the collection are not easily determined without assistance

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars

Ease of Use: 4.0, 5.0 = 4.5

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) provides accurate explanations on how to use photos outside of the collection
  • Search functions appear to be comprehensive and well organized; all searches attempted were either successful or indicated ?No match found?
  • All links tried functioned and materials loaded quickly in most cases
  • Easy to navigate with different options
  • Excellent organization, presentation, and speed
  • Very simple and straightforward design

  • FAQs provide much information on further use of images but no information on how to access the items in the collection
  • Site functions are easy to use but do not lead easily to educational use by students without direction

Other Issues and Comments: This part (CalPhotos) of the UC Berkeley Digital Library Project is one of the
most interesting and useful of the websites offered.