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Under The Microscope

INVESTIGATING VERTEBRATES, by Peter S Davie and Lyn Radley; Massey University, 1994; $55.00

When I first saw the title of this book, I thought "That's no good, we don't study vertebrates". However closer inspection revealed a resource that should provide some inspiration to even the most ardent sandhopper or crab fan, and prove valuable to those with access to domesticated animals.

The authors' intent is to encourage the use of vertebrates in 7th Form studies. The whole book is photocopiable and clearly set out. Each unit in the book has clearly stated assessment criteria and a number of tasks have answers supplied.

Unit One leads students through a planning exercise which would be useful to develop skills. Unit Two considers the ethics of animal study with an outline of three case studies. Each must be evaluated to see if the approval of an Ethics Committee would be needed. The procedures, forms and regulations involved are included. This section would be particularly useful to students involved in a CREST project involving vertebrates. Some terms used in the case studies would need explaining, but this section would be useful generally to raise student understanding of animal care and ethical issues.

Unit Three outlines a practical study of a domesticated mammal, with tasks outlined ranging from simple observation to dissection and urine analysis. These are sufficiently full to be used on their own for a single animal study. Some could be modified for use with wild vertebrates and invertebrates.

Science in Society, the fourth unit, sets a seminar or essay topic on social and ethical issues relating to vertebrates, such as tail docking, breeding pedigree animals and transgenic animals. Some of these will be relevant issues at Level 8 in the new curriculum.

This book would be a worthwhile resource in the library of teachers of senior biology.

Lois Rid teaches at Avonside Girls High School.

Lois Rid teaches at Avonside Girls High School in Christchurch.