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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Plants and Animals (Succession) of Mt St Helens

 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4.4 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.1 stars
Ease of Use: 4.7 stars
Reviewed: Feb 23, 2004 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: As part of the Volcano World site, this learning object provides descriptions of plant and animal populations around the area of Mount Saint Helens before and after volcanic eruption. The Mount St. Helens? eruption presented biologists with an opportunity watch succession in action. There were research sites established before the eruption that provide quality data for comparison to the immediate after-effects and long-term change. The information is presented by the Volcano World Team and provided by the University of North Dakota. Navigation through the material provides a great tour of changes that occurred in biodiversity before, during, and after eruption. There is a clear description of the diversity of life in the area. The impact of each of the volcanic events is described and illustrated with a discussion of immediate survival. Pictures and descriptions are provided of plants and animals that were observed prior to the event as well as after certain stages such as ashfall, blowdown, debris avalanche, pyroclastic flow, and mud flow. Additional information is provided about species diversity and ecosystems after the eruption along with a good section on disturbance ecology and the impact of humans on succession.
Learning Goals: Students will learn about species diversity before, during, and after volcanic eruption.
Target Student Population: The general public, high school, and college students can all learn from the information presented.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Use of web browser will be required. Some basic background knowledge about ecology will provide a better appreciation of the material.
Type of Material: Most of the material is formatted as a data collection of pictures showing species diversity. The information can be used as a tutorial.
Recommended Uses: This is an excellent example to show succession after volcanic eruption in the classroom or as an individual assignment. Depending on the level of class, the site could serve as a basic, simplified introduction or a more comprehensive treatment for high school and freshman college level biology.
Technical Requirements: No technical requirements other than the ability to view HTML on the Internet. Some of the links may require use of QuickTime or other suitable video player.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths:

  • Photo essay approach to pre eruption biota gives a good overview of the area
  • There are before and after images of each study site for comparison
  • The vocabulary and approach are appropriate for introductory level students
  • Integrates biological and physical/geologic processes and concepts
  • The overall approach will engage visitors' interest
  • Contains a short section on human disturbances to ecosystems for comparison
  • Good quality images that can be viewed as a group or individually
Concerns:

  • In some cases, there aren?t many examples / images of species present at individual states, although it is understood specimens were either not present or hard to find after eruption
  • More detailed data on research is needed for higher level courses?either on site or links
  • It would help to have a little more text describing the species present (along with scientific names) and how they were distributed after each stage of succession

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.1 stars
Strengths:

  • Site is sufficiently clear and on an appropriate level to be used as an illustration of succession after the topic is introduced in class
  • Alternatively, the site can also serve as the basis of an investigative approach
  • Survey of species present lends itself to good discussion of how succession progressed
  • Pictures of plants and animals provide an entertaining approach to the topic
  • Builds applied knowledge to present day understanding of succession
  • Organization by topics selected makes it easy to follow
Concerns:

  • A set of learning objectives would make it easier to evaluate how to integrate site material into course/lesson
  • It would help to include some discussion of relationships among species that survived different stages of volcanic eruption
  • Some mention of population size and distribution of species would be help to better understand succession
  • Having more detailed data available would allow higher level courses to make better use of this site
  • There ought to be a timeline (in months and/or years) for users who don?t understand the duration of different volcanic events

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.7 stars
Strengths:

  • Information is well organized and easy to navigate
  • Organization of the data presented clearly illustrates concepts of succession
  • Pages relating to effects of eruption on biota during and after eruption use consistent formatting and organization
  • Pictures load quickly and efficiently
  • No defective links were found
  • No major bugs in navigating through site
Concerns:

  • It might help to have some way to search the site for certain species
  • A roadmap of the site or more comprehensive navigation bar would help move through the material
  • May not be detailed enough for all users. It might help to have some way to search the site for certain species

Other Issues and Comments: This is a great site to show how succession we learn in the classroom occurs in real life. Users will about the stages of volcanic eruption at the same time that they learn about succession. The pictures are an added plus and make learning about succession an exciting adventure. The site will be generally useful up through introductory biology. Above that level, the site will not provide sufficient detail but would serve as a basic review. The site accurately meets the needs of the target audience.