Shayler, H.A. and P.A. Siver. 2006. Key to Freshwater Algae: A web-based tool to enhance understanding of microscopic biodiversity. Journal of Science Education and Technology 15(3): 298-303.
The Freshwater Ecology Laboratory at Connecticut College has developed an interactive, web-based, computerized identification key for freshwater algal genera using Lucid software. Our key is designed to be used with algal cultures from the Carolina Biological Supply Company. Users may answer questions in any order to quickly and efficiently narrow down a list of taxa to only those that match the characteristics they have chosen. All characters and terms are clearly explained for ease of use by those unfamiliar with the algae. This non-hierarchical, user-friendly key will be linked to web pages containing a wealth of resources, including images, movies, and information about the ecology, morphology, and reproduction of each organism. The movies incorporate titles, diagrams, and structural terminology to further familiarize students with the morphology and taxonomy of the algae.
Our interactive, multimedia Key to Common Freshwater Algae includes:
- Non-hierarchical, user-friendly questions
- Links to genera pages with information, high quality images, and movies
- Web access with free software download
- To enhance understanding of algal morphology, ecology, and biodiversity
- To allow students to view high-resolution, highly-magnified algal cells
- To provide a useful and efficient alternative to traditional dichotomous keys
How to Use the Carolina Lucid Key
The questions are designed so that the user may efficiently and accurately narrow down a list of available organisms (Fig 1).The questions are arranged in a logical order but may be answered in any order, and any question may be skipped.
Character pages provide helpful hints for a given question (Figure 2a, b), while organismal pages provide high-quality images and information about the morphology, ecology, and reproduction of each genus (Figure 3). The QuickTime movies, accessed from the organismal pages within the key, are enhanced by captions and diagrams noting important characteristics and allow the user to experience a microscopic investigation firsthand, progressing from low to high magnification as though they are looking over the shoulder of a skilled microscopist.
Descriptive text guides the user through the decision-making process, and offers information such as an explanation of the features common to a particular algal group. Illustrative images showcase important features or traits, such as the morphological range of a particular algal group.