Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fun and Useful Resources

Val helped me get in touch with Greg Jordan, author of the original PhyloWidget program. He recommended the two following site for both information and inspiration: 

Rebecca Shapley's work on "Teaching with a Visual Tree of Life"

and the UK Wellcome Trust's "Wellcome Tree of Life"

The second link looked really neat at first, and the graphics in the video are great, but it was tough to interact with and was pretty shallow in terms of the amount of information that was available. I liked the idea of color-coding the images based on whether outside data was available, though. 

The study done at Berkley may prove incredibly useful. The final report from their study was ~112 pages long, but I spent a while going through the powerpoint (with notes) from their presentation as well as reading briefly through the different sections of the paper to see what would come in handy later on. They have a whole section of recommendations based on interviews with teachers about what functionality they would like in a Tree of Life program. Just for a taste of some of their results, here are features that over 80% of respondents considered important or very important: 

  • Zooming in to any part of the tree 
  • Seeing areas of controversy 
  • Viewing the relationship of divergence events to geological time 
  • Seeing the distribution of important character states 
  • Bookmarking particular branches on the tree 
  • Accessing geographic distributions of groups of organisms 
  • Viewing the distribution of biological patterns across the tree  

(Green and Shapley, p. 47)

So as you can see it's going to be a very useful document. I looked for Rebecca Shapley's contact information so that I might be able to get in touch with her directly (she now works for Google), and although her e-mail address wasn't displayed on her website, I actually found her on Facebook and sent her a message! It'd be quite nice to have her direct input, since she conducted this massive amount of research that would be incredibly useful to making my project successful. 

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