DryadLab is a collection of free, openly-licensed, high-quality, hands-on, educational modules for students to engage in scientific inquiry using real data. DryadLab modules can be easily integrated into existing advanced secondary, undergraduate, and early graduate courses, and can be adapted to meet the specific needs of your course.

DryadLab is a project of the Dryad Digital Repository, which makes a wide variety of research data underlying scientific and medical publications discoverable, freely reusable, and citable. All the DryadLab modules have been developed in collaboration with researchers and educators. We welcome new collaborators who wish to add to the DryadLab collection and would love to hear from you if you are using DryadLab in your classroom.


DryadLab Activities

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  • A Walk Through the Woods: Data Analysis of Structural Adaptations in Wood

    Students will use an authentic data set from Dryad Digital Repository to explore whether evolutionary tradeoffs actually occur in plants and whether evolution has led to tissue distributions that match predictions about efficiency and safety. Students will 1) form hypotheses about the influence of environmental variables on wood structure, 2) test their hypotheses using wood structure data, 3) interpret their results in light of environmental pressures and physiological function, and 4) revise hypotheses as necessary. Students will be able generate a hypothesis, examine a data set, select the appropriate data to test their hypothesis, visualize these data, and evaluate their hypothesis based on the results. The module contains scaffolding, and can be customized to meet the needs of students of varying abilities.

    • Instruction Level: Introductory and advanced undergraduate biology courses, AP high school biology
    • Academic Standards: None
    • Duration: 30 minutes + homework
    • Keywords: hypothesis formulation, hypothesis testing, data visualization, graphing, adaptation, environmental pressures, wood structure and function, ecology, botany, forestry, climate change
    • Download
      WalkThroughTheWoods.zip (2.661Mb)
      More about this module
  • Survivorship in the Natural World

    Students will compare idealized survivorship curves with actual survivorship curves through the examination and manipulation of an authentic dataset from the Dryad Digital Repository, allowing students to wrestle with questions about whether or not real data yield results that look like classic models. Students are then able to compare those survivorship curves to age pyramids and life histories. At completion of the module, students will understand that while idealized models have value, they do not represent the real world. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to create and manage data files, and will be able to put data into a more easily accessible form. The module contains scaffolding, and can be customized to meet the needs of students of varying abilities.

  • Staying Alive: Introduction to Extinction and Extinction Bias

    Students will be introduced to different factors that affect extinction risk and will work with an authentic data set on artiodactyls from Dryad Digital Repository to ask their own questions, develop hypotheses and use data to answer those questions. At completion of the module, students will understand that hypotheses are tested by figuring out what expectations are generated by that hypothesis, and making observations to find out whether those expectations are borne out. They will be able to examine a large data set, select the appropriate data, visualize data by making candlestick plots and look for patterns in these data. The module contains scaffolding, and can be customized to meet the needs of students of varying abilities. The module emphasizes the fact that science is an ongoing process and that investigating one scientific question frequently leads to additional questions.

    • Instruction Level: Intro level undergrad biology, AP high school, high school
    • Academic Standards: Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS 2013), Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (NGA 2010)
    • Duration: 1.5 hours OR 15 minutes + homework
    • Keywords: extinction, data analysis, graphing, macroevolution, ecology, conservation
    • Download
      IntroToExtinction.zip (5.596Mb)
      More about this module

The development of DryadLab has been supported through the education and outreach program of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and by the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis project, with funding from National Science Foundation grants DBI-0743720, EF-0905606, DBI 1346584, DUE 1446269, DUE 1446258, and DUE 1446284. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funder(s).