What is the Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory?
Feedback from the students in previous years tells us that many people want additional time with laboratory materials or the opportunity to review materials before exams. For security reasons, it is difficult to make actual specimens available. To meet this need the Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory was created as a teaching tool primarily for students enrolled in Integrative Biology 181, and as such it follows the laboratory section of that class very closely. However, the web site is designed so that visitors from outside of UC Berkeley should be able to find their way around the labs and benefit from the information that is provided. The glossary, explaining most of the pertinent terminology, will hopefully contribute to this. Note that this lab manual attempts to discuss the fossil record of land plants in light of recent cladistic treatments. Consequently, the partitioning of the chapters do not always correspond to that of most current paleobotany textbooks, and - moreover - is likely to change in the future as our knowledge of land plant evolution deepen!
What is the Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory NOT?
The Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory is NOT a comprehensive treatment of the fossil record of land plants. Instead of trying to cover all the diversity and disparity of the flora past and present, we have chosen to describe a number of important players in plant evolution. This is partly a result of the attempt to present a modern (phylogenetic) interpretation of the land plant clade; rather than descriding vaguely defined ranked groups of plants, we concentrate on fairly well circumscribed, i.e. phylogentically meaningful plant taxa. For this reason, the Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory should be regarded as an entry to the paleobotanical literature more than as a complete summary of it.
In addition, it should be remembered that the laboratory section of IB 181, and consequently the Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory, is well integrated with other parts of the course. Thus, it mainly provides the raw material for the accompanying lecture series, where patterns and processes are discussed more in detail. (Eventually, the lecture notes might be added to the web-site).
How to use the Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory
The Virtual Paleobotany Laboratory has several features to supplement your lecture and lab experiences:
- The first page of the Virtual Laboratory, the Directory Page, is a generalized phylogeny that presents an overview hypothesis of relationships among the land plants. Since evolutionary relationships are the framework by which we understand the diversity of life, this phylogeny will help you develop a context for the details you learn about individual plants. We refer to this phylogeny many times throughout the lab manual, so it will be an essential resource.
- At some nodes in this generalized phylogeny, you will note the "?" button. This button highlights the many unanswered questions we still have about relationships among living and extinct land plants. Move your mouse over this button to see some particularly interesting question... that might make good term paper ideas.
- The Virtual Laboratory has many links to other exhibits in the UCMP's web site and other WWW rsources. Use them to explore plant evolution in more depth.
- Use the Virtual Laboratory to review laboratory exercise and material before quizzes and exams.
Organization of Virtual Paleobotany Laboratory
The Virtual Paleobotanical Laboratory is divided into 12 chapters, Lab I through XII, which can be accessed via the Lab Directory. Each lab has:
In addition, every page of the main text is linked to
- a title page from where you can access all parts of the lab; thus, you can either read it in a linear fashion, or skip to the part you are interested in.
- pages with main text,
- a page with questions around the group or subject of study,
- a list of literature and links for further reading and exploration of the plaeobotanical resources on the web,
- a range chart of the fossil/modern taxa involved that can be accessed from every page, and
- a Virtual Gallery of images from the lab.
- the geologic time scale published by the Geological Society of America;
- a glossary. Relevant words in the text are also directly linked to the glossary.
How use the Virtual Gallery?
The Virtual Gallery is a collection of all the images associated with the lab, not only the fossil material but additional slides and photgraphs of extant specimens. The images are listed in an order that parallells that of the text. This enables you to open an extra browser window with the Virtual Gallery alongside the window with the main text of the chapter, so that you can open the images as they are referred to in the text. It also provides an easy way to quickly review fossil and modern material before quizzes. The headings in the Virtual Gallery are linked to headings in the main text.
You can access the images directly from the text through links (such as (VG 1:3)). However, the image captions can only be read in the Virtual Gallery, which also can contain extra images not referred to in the text.
The navigational tools are in the form of buttons on the bottom of the page. For example, the button with the text "V" leads to the title page of chapter 5 (V) from the Directory page as well as from all pages of this chapter. Each page also has "forward" and "back" buttons, to flip between the pages in a linear manner.
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