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BIRDD: Beagle Investigations Return with Darwinian Data
(The Darwin's Finch Data Resource)
Frank Price (Hamilton College),
Sam Donovan (University of Wisconsin - Madison),
Jim Stewart (University of Wisconsin - Madison), and
John R. Jungck (Beloit College)
Screen Shots | System Requirements

BIRDD is a rich collection of primary scientific data and supporting materials about the Galápagos islands and Darwin’s finches. The islands and their finches had a major impact on Charles Darwin, and they are still providing evolutionary insights over 150 years later. Pictures of finch beaks and possible phylogenetic relationships between species are common icons of evolution in textbooks.

Despite their importance, studying the finches can be difficult for nonspecialists. The original literature can be bewildering and original data have not been readily available.

Evolutionary concepts and models are often presented to students without the rich data and arguments on which they are based. Unless students actually confront such data, they often do not have a chance to use evolutionary reasoning, and are unable to appreciate how such reasoning contributes to understanding the world. Without a ready source of evolution-related data, instructors are hard-pressed to provide students with experiences that help them understand the basis for claims about evolution.

Screen Shots

 

BIRDD provides information ranging from island names, maps, and weather, to summaries of taxonomy, song recordings, DNA sequences, and measurements of over 650 specimens. These resources are organized in a database that is easy to navigate, view, and print. Most importantly, users can export data to spreadsheets, statistics packages, image-analysis, DNA-analysis, systematics, GIS, and other software.

BIRDD may be used:

  • As a collection of data. Students may pursue realistic problem-solving in evolution and other fields. Students can explore morphology and allometry, intra- and interspecific variation, island biogeography, DNA sequence analysis phenetic and cladistic analyses, character displacement, and competitive exclusion. Data on number of plant species, island areas, elevations, vegetation zones, etc., can be used to study environmental factors determining species distributions.
  • As a curricular resource. Teachers may develop custom exercises by exporting selected data. For example, they might export data to their spreadsheet or statistics package and delete species names. Their students can experience “raw data” like those that confronted John Gould, the original describer of the group. The wide variety of data can serve faculty in diverse courses at many levels. In particular, instructors of evolution courses can use the material for evolution labs, often absent from evolution courses. More generally, departments can bring home to students the variety of data and methods used in evolutionary biology if they have students revisit BIRDD data in a number of courses.
  • As a reference library. BIRDD provides maps, lists of species and island names, summaries of weather, topography, taxonomic diversity, and more. From experience, we know how confusing the multiple names of islands and species can be. Jotting notes on a printed copy of the blank map can help students make sense of data.

System Requirements

Macintosh or Power Macintosh

  • System 7 or later; System 7.1 or better recommended.
  • 3 MB available RAM; 4 MB recommended.
  • At least 67 MB of hard disk space needed (unless run from CD ROM).
  • Color monitor with 800 x 600 resolution or better (640 x 480 possible but not recommended).
BIRDD is a Filemaker Pro Standalone document. You do not need the Filemaker Pro application to run it.


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