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MERLOT II

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Peer Review


The Seed Site

 

Ratings

Overall Numeric Rating:

4.5 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.4 stars
Ease of Use: 4.7 stars
Reviewed: Jul 19, 2005 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: ”A website devoted entirely to seeds!” That is the best description of this ongoing project—except that it does not capture the obvious enthusiasm and delight the author takes in the subject. The Seed Site is devoted to the study of seeds and seedlings. Pictures and text are used to describe seeds and seed pods, seed harvesting, seed sowing, and germination. A glossary is included to define botanical terms used in the site. The site is well organized, with browsing possible on the basis of seed size, botanical name, or common name, and a search engine that can search for a single species in the site. For many specimens, it is possible to view the seed pod, seeds, and germinated seedlings all on the same page. The information on seed harvesting and seed sowing provides good instructions, picture guides, and even envelope templates for storing seeds. Each section contains images of the plant or plant parts as well as practical information on how to collect, store, and then grow seeds yourself. Exploring this site is a bit like a treasure hunt because you never know where the next gem will appear. The site is peppered with links to other pages and sources. Kudos to the author for his work on this site.
Type of Material: This site is organized primarily as a picture collection / database of seeds and seedlings. The content presented also includes useful information on seed harvesting, seed sowing, and germination.
Recommended Uses: The information can be used to identify seeds and seedlings, compare sizes and morphologies of seeds and seedlings, and learn about seed harvesting, seed sowing, and germination. The site has many possible uses such as: 1) Introduce students to methods of collecting and preserving seeds, 2)Introduce students to germination and identification of plants, and 3) A guide for a lab based exercise where students use information on the site to collect, store, and study germination of local plants.
Technical Requirements: Technical requirements include the ability to view text as HTML along with pictures using Java enabled Internet browser.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Information is provided to help identify seeds and seedlings, to learn about seed harvesting and sowing techniques, and to visualize the morphological changes during germination. It would be easy to produce assignments that use the site to meet specific educational goals.
Target Student Population: Content is appropriate for the general public as well as K-12 and college students interested in seeds and seedlings.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Not much prerequisite knowledge is necessary, but some background knowledge of botany and/or agronomic science will help users interpret pictures.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths:

  • The site is organized with the ability to view seed pods, seeds, and seeds in a comparative manner
  • Extensive practical information provided on the collection, care, handling of seeds
  • The site is an ambitious attempt to help individuals identify plants from seedpods, seeds, and seedlings instead of the more conventional characteristics—flowers and leaf patterns
  • Multiple ways of viewing pictures together helps to integrate the content
  • Pictures are high quality and easy to interpret
  • Appropriate labels are used on pictures
  • Collection is fairly comprehensive and growing
Concerns:

  • Some important crop species (such as corn, rice, and pigeon peas) should be added to the collection
  • Pictures of seeds are missing in some cases, but it appears there is a plan in place to add them later
  • Images of seeds are not always large enough or have enough resolution to identify seeds from them
  • No information provided on the authority or procedure for identification decisions
  • While site appears to be updated, no specific date of last update given

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.4 stars
Strengths:

  • A great site to introduce students to the incredible diversity of little seen and little appreciated parts of plant life cycles
  • Organizing and displaying pictures together helps to demonstrate relationships
  • A wide variety of assignments geared to specific learning objective would be easy to design using the resources provided on this site
  • The step-by-step seed sowing and transplanting pictures are well done
  • Information presented in multiple ways helps to build knowledge
  • Site could also be used to design laboratory-based exercises using the practical application information provided
Concerns:

  • Learning objectives should be stated somewhere in the beginning of the site
  • It might help to include some well-drawn seed/seedling pictures for a monocot and a dicot with labels that identify specific structures
  • Numerous images not yet in place

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.7 stars
Strengths:

  • The site is exceptionally well organized and searchable
  • It is easy to navigate throughout the site
  • Few defective links or bugs were found
  • Organization of entries on seedlings with seedpod, seed, and seedling on the same line is very helpful
Concerns:

  • Some missing pictures were encountered
  • User can be unaware of additional pages (e.g., Weed ID Chart) that are available but only linked to from the glossary
  • It might help to have the search option shown on the main page for this site

Other Issues and Comments: Great organization, different viewing capacities, and good pictures make this an excellent resource for studying seeds and seedlings. This site goes beyond typical taxonomic resources because the materials are listed in such a way (by seed size, for instance) that makes exploration fun and easy to do. A very attractive and well done site on some of the least appreciated parts of plant life cycles. The excellent images and clear presentation should attract the attention of interested users and specialists alike. It is very interesting and lends itself well to casual browsing.