Experiences with teaching DELTA

Mike Dallwitz miked at ENTO.CSIRO.AU
Wed Mar 22 07:30:43 CST 1995

                                                                 22 March 1995

Cross-posting from Delta-l.

From: Jeremy Bruhl <jbruhl at METZ.UNE.EDU.AU>

I have been using DELTA for ten years. This includes the use of ONLINE,
various versions of INTKEY and limited use of some other interactive id
programs including Tony Young's key to some fungi and Hyland and Whiffen's
extensive key to trees of tropical Australia. Over the last two years I have
supervised a few advanced undergraduate and graduate students on the use of
DELTA and INTKEY. I am about to launch into a new Plant Systematics and
Evolution 3rd year undergraduate unit of which one aim will be to expose the
students to DELTA and deal with the common taxonomic processes including
identification (INTKEY) and classification (cladistics and phenetics with
PAUP and MacClade).

DELTA certainly encourages users to contemplate how to deal with taxonomic
data (and provides ready means for doing this in appropriate ways). INTKEY
is a great identification tool and a flexible means of exploring one's data
(=research). Indeed, having introduced the concept of identification and
traditional methods in this Mondays lecture to my 2nd year botany students,
the next lecture (Thursday) will present more flexible means including a
classic and 'real life' example of an identification of sterile sedge
material in the form of a basket from Papua New Guinea where an
identification to genus was obtained with some degree of certainty (in fact,
as the genus was monotypic, the id was specific; see Taxon 41: 225-234

Even more rewarding is the response of the students that I have taught DELTA
to date. Generally they don't have all the hang ups many of us have of
navigating the basic system of DELTA and become, dare I say, 'converts' to
the benefits of INTKEY and the general ease of manipulating the DELTA data
sets that they create (eg species of Lepidosperma, Cyperaceae; species of
Eucalyptus, Myrtaceae; Homopholis, Poaceae) into various formats. Their
enthusiasm and development of a critical approach is satisfying to see.

Ok, not all problems/processes are solved. One still has to make the initial
taxonomic decisions about taxa. And, we are all waiting for an integrated
front-end for DELTA. I would be pleased to see comments about the available
front-ends for DELTA from the other DELTA-l subscribers. ...


Dr Jeremy J. Bruhl
Department of Botany and New England Herbarium (NE)
University of New England
Armidale, NSW 2351

Telephone: +61 67 73 2429
Fax:          +61 67 73 3283
Internet:      jbruhl at metz.une.edu.au

Mike Dallwitz                                  Internet md at ento.csiro.au
CSIRO Division of Entomology                   Fax +61 6 246 4000
GPO Box 1700, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia     Phone +61 6 246 4075

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