Nature is full of strange and wonderful things; that is why many of us are biologists. For some people being able to name the organisms they find enriches their experience. The author describes this site as my small attempt to photograph and name many of these strange things. The Hidden Forest site combines an attractive webpage design, good quality pictures, and well-written text to explore species that are sometimes overlooked in forest and other environments. A site map is provided (leading to more images of New Zealand carnivorous plants and orchids) and the site is searchable. Slime molds, fungi, lichens, bryophytes and lower vascular plants are presented with pictures, text, and classification systems used to identify organisms. An older classification system is used (e.g., Division is used instead of the new Phylum system recently adopted for all species), and students should be aware that some of the names might have been modified after the site was created. The additional links included in this site show some of the more interesting scenery, wildlife, and foliage found in New Zealand. The author clearly states that he is an amateur and encourages feedback on accuracy of materials.
Students will appreciate and learn about the diversity, classification, and identification of many fungi, bryophytes, and lower vascular plants. The site is dedicated to helping users learn about native New Zealand lower plants and fungi,
which are the organisms that are typically hidden.
Target Student Population:
Content is appropriate for introducing the topic in middle school classes as well as college courses in Biology and Botany. Further study of pictures can also be used to complement upper-division college courses in Mycology and survey courses such as Plant Kingdom.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Browsing the material simply to explore the diversity of organisms requires no prerequisite knowledge. However, classification and identification of species may require some background in biology, botany, and taxonomy.
Type of Material:
This site is organized primarily as a collection or database, but may be modified with inclusion of assignments as an interactive tutorial.
This site has a myriad potential uses. It provides an excellent introduction to lower plants and fungi for the non-specialist. The presentation also provides more detailed information on fungi, lichens, slime moulds, bryophytes, and primitive plants of New Zealand for the botanist/mycologist. It illustrates classification techniques and provides a classification guide for fungi.
Technical requirements include the ability to view text as HTML with frames and activated scripts. A java-enabled Internet browser is needed for some of the material.
Evaluation and Observation
Images are good quality and can be obtained in even better quality from the author; they can be enlarged by clicking on them
Material includes a comprehensive survey of many organisms found in The Hidden Forest
Pictures and identifications appear to be accurate and can be corrected by corresponding with the author
Labels and accompanying text are generally accurate, although it may help to have some content reviewed to make sure everything is correct
The site is engaging, particularly because of the creative design and layout of materials
Links to more sites on each type of organism are provided
An outdated classification system is used (taxonomists agreed to use Phylum for all Kingdoms a few years ago)
No mention of voucher specimens to verify identifications
It might help to provide a perspective of how organisms in The Hidden Forest relate to what most agree to be six living Kingdoms of life
Some discussion of role of these organisms in ecosystem would be beneficial
There are some unidentified specimens included in the site
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Inclusion of classification along with identification helps to demonstrate taxonomic relationships
Assignments focused on specific grade/course objectives could easily be built around the information presented
The breadth and depth of this collection makes help to build knowledge about organisms from several different kingdoms
This is a great site to introduce students to the incredible diversity of little-seen and little-appreciated life forms
Leaving some species unidentified may have some benefit,
in that, it entices users to get involved in the taxonomy of The Hidden Forest
The photographs are unique and have potential to raise curiosity
Learning objectives are not clearly stated
Some examples of how the site can be used for classification and identification would strengthen the teaching effectiveness
Perhaps an introductory video could be included to get users more interested in the material
Shockwave animations might be included with life cycles to make them more interactive
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Site is searchable and a site map is provided
Sidebar menus make navigation easy although some headings are vague (e.g., "Fungi Things")
Material is well organized and easy to follow
Most of the main links load fast without difficulty
Site is designed intuitively, which makes it easy find specific pictures
While the main pages load without problems, there are a number of external links that are either defective or inactive
There should be some statement in the website about activating browser frames and scripts (and a disclaimer about how this might cause security vulnerabilities) to view all materials
Link to unidentified fungi has no contents
Other Issues and Comments:
The design and theme use for background of this site are excellent. The excellent images and clear presentation should attract the attention of interested users and specialists alike. Pictures of species found in The Hidden Forest are well done. The layout, organization, text, and good pictures will inevitable catch the attention of students. This is a great site to get people interested in species that are sometimes overlooked in forest and other environments.