Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Parrots: a medium for integrating aspects of biogeography
Originator Max Wade
Department Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Hertfordshire
Tel. +44 (0) 1707 284516
Fax. +44 (0) 1707 285258

The study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals necessitates the integration of a number of principles such as island biogeography, adaptive evolution and biodiversity, and the recognition that biogeography is global in scale. This project sought to integrate significant elements of the curriculum of a Biogeography module coupled with developing the students' communication and teamwork skills.

The module was delivered to 80 Level 2 students in a lecture theatre over one semester. The project took two 2 hour sessions strategically located in the middle and at the end of the semester. Groups of students were established, five per group, and presented with the task of researching into an endangered parrot species, the parrots coming from at least four continents. Each group was given the name of a different parrot and received a starter pack. Their task was to produce a 10 minute slot for a radio programme plus an accompanying fact sheet on their parrot and its conservation. The pack provided directed reading including journal articles, web addresses and clear instructions and guidance on what was required directing them to various aspects of the parrots autecology and biology. The progress of the groups was systematically assessed using the last 5 minutes of each session. The groups were given a whole session mid-way through the semester to research, plan and develop their programme on their own. Support needed in terms of provision of tape recorders was minimal. After the tapes had all been handed in, a 40-45 minute tape was compiled using extracts from the all of the groups' tapes. This tape was played back in the final session of the semester and the fact sheets were circulated. The tape was stopped from time to time to pick up on points and provoke discussion. The exercise was assessed through a compulsory question in the examination for the module.

The parrots stimulated considerable interest across the group and the development of a conservation strategy necessitated linking various aspects of biogeography. The radio programmes were fun to make and to listen to, holding the students' attention throughout and providing an excellent revision medium. On the negative side, there was a feeling that the exercise should have been "worth more". Whilst the students working on their own for a whole session freed up time for the lecturer, the compiling and editing of the final composite tape took almost as long, i.e. a couple of hours - but was more fun!


Island biogeography

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