New resource library for science education

Measuring a bird

The data sets available in the new resource library have all been processed and produced by the actual scientists involved in the research

An innovative and novel resource for science and geography students is being launched this autumn, providing important datasets that students can freely access to guide and inform their learning activities.

Preparing 16-18 year students for key Science exams can be a challenging and often frustrating experience for teachers. Certainly in the UK and America there are fundamental changes occurring in many key examinations such as the American AP Biology and Environmental Science courses, UK Biology and Geography A levels and Scottish Science Higher exams.

There has been a universal and ever increasing emphasis placed on the analysis of scientific data, guided inquiry through learning activities and preparing students by extending their knowledge for synoptic examination questions.

One major problem facing science teachers has been finding good data sets to support all of these new initiatives and one survey in America suggested that over 50% of teachers found it really difficult to find such sets. Also many of the examples often used within present education fail to represent recent advances in research especially in the field.

There is now a wonderful new science resource known as WRL (the Wallace Resource Library) that is being made available to help science teachers and it can provide novel data sets for the classroom. Uniquely, these data sets have all been processed and produced by the actual scientists involved in the research.

The struggle for wealth…ha[s] been accompanied by a reckless destruction of the stored-up products of nature, which is even more deplorable because more irretrievable. Not only have forest-growths of many hundreds of years been cleared away, often with disastrous consequences, but the whole of the mineral treasures of the earth’s surface, the slow products of long-past eons of time and geological change, have been and are still being exhausted, to an extent never before approached, and probably not equalled in amount during the whole preceding period of human history.” (From Alfred Russel Wallace’s 1898 book The Wonderful Century; Its Successes and Its Failures)

A growing resource

The Weston Foundation has provided the initial funding which has allowed Operation Wallacea to develop this new resource. It will become available this autumn and will be added to on a regular basis and build up into a significant ‘long-term’ resource for education.

WRL is being organized under a series of modular topic headings such as Animal Behaviour, Ecosystems (Coral reefs), Ecological Survey Techniques and many others which are especially relevant to teaching Ecology and Conservation.

These data sets all originate directly from Operation Wallacea research sites around the world (11 different countries) and in each country there is a long-term agreement that has been signed with the partner organisation to achieve a survey and management development programme. Over the past decade there has been a vast amount of very important scientific data produced and this is now being made available to schools around the world.

The diversity of organisms and habits involved is very wide ranging from butterflies being studied in the wadis of Egypt, cleaner fish behaviour on Indonesian coral reefs and elephant impact studies in Africa.

Each resource has been organised so that it can be used almost immediately by a teacher and it will appeal to all 16-18 year old science students but also stretch the most able. The examples provided will almost certainly be novel and exciting and should provide a real catalyst for learning and being enthusiastic about ‘your subject’. Each resource will also have backup material such as photographs, video clips, glossary of terms, curriculum links and eventually examples used by other teachers in their schemes of work; a list of keywords will make it easy to find material and link with other areas of the curriculum.

Data sets


The data sets all originate directly from Operation Wallacea research sites around the world in 11 different countries

One of the first data sets produced will be part of the Ecosystems Coral Reef module and it looks at a ‘real life’ research project into ‘the effect of light on the morphology of the great star coral found in the Caribbean’. The data has been collected and processed by the actual scientist involved and poses two key research questions for students to study. Students get involved in the analysis of a series of photographs and there is a detailed ‘walk through’ on how to analyse the data and make valid conclusions.

Other examples that will form part of the initial data sets are:

Animal Behaviour: calculating elephant hierarchies; impact of intertidal height on the feeding rates of fiddler crabs; time budgets of Mantled Howler Monkeys; effect of water quality on cleaner fish time budgets; and crop raiding behaviour of macaques.

Ecological Assessment Techniques: mark release recapture of Hog Island Boas; analysis of bird point count data from a cloud forest; comparison of point count, transect and mist net data for assessing bird communities in lowland forests; camera trap data for estimating large mammal populations; and transect count versus helicopter surveys for large herbivores.

Coral Reef Ecosystems: comparison of fish communities on Indo-Pacific, Indian Ocean and Caribbean reefs; assessing coral cover from video transects; how light affects coral morphology; physiological adaptations of fish living in rock pools; and whether anemonefish vocalization is species specific.

Much of the research is novel, innovative and exciting and it will provide a real catalyst for learning within science education and really motivate 16-18 year old students. The data sets will also appeal to Geographers and Mathematicians and WRL should be considered as a genuine ‘cross-curricula’ resource for education. If anyone is interested in this new resource you can get further information from

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5 Responses to “New resource library for science education”

  1. When will this be available? It says “the autumn” but any more specific information on a release date?

    • Dear Ben
      We are in the process of checking everything before it is released – I think we are on schedule for the second half of the month and hope to have an exact date in the next few days. It is looking good!

  2. The launch date will be the 15th October, 2012

  3. Dear David
    WRL is now reality and looking wonderful (and completed by the deadline!). The best way to get hold of the data sets is to email The data sets are now ready and if you were available one of the Opwall science team can come to your school and drop off some examples and also explain how sixth form students can get involved in this sort of fieldwork themselves.

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