A Student's Guide to Tropical Marine Biology
Copyright Year: 2019
Publisher: Kenyon College
Conditions of Use
The text is not a comprehensive work on tropical marine biology, but would serve as a great supplement to be used in conjunction with other resources, including primary literature. There are sections on coral biology, environmental threats and... read more
The text is not a comprehensive work on tropical marine biology, but would serve as a great supplement to be used in conjunction with other resources, including primary literature. There are sections on coral biology, environmental threats and reef conservation, as well as sections on reef fishes and the major marine phyla. It is impressive and wonderful that this resource was written and edited by students, and from the "about" section I gleaned that this may be a project future students can continue to work on. The following are suggestions for improving the text. The text mainly focuses on coral reefs, which is fine and certainly there is enough to learn about reefs to fill a textbook! However, it may be worth considering a change to the title. Mangrove forests and seagrass beds are mentioned very briefly, but are not treated in their own sections. Instead, these are embedded in the section "coral reefs are complex ecosystems." The section on reef formation could be expanded, and include other reef builders like algae, sponges and bryozoans. Other helpful additions might be sections on reef biogeography, zonation, coral diversity, common algae on tropical reefs (some are important reef-builders) and other common animals besides reef fishes. The ecology section could be expanded to include the trophic structure of reef communities and nutrient cycling/productivity, as well as competition, predation and grazing. In the environmental threats section, I might add a section on invasive species and phase shifts. The linked table of contents is helpful, but a glossary/index is not included.
I did not identify inaccurate content. The authors do an excellent job of linking to sources, although some links do need updating.
Much of the content that is included in this text is fundamental and is not likely to become obsolete. Some taxonomic information may change and require updating. There are specific examples and 'case studies' that could be reevaluated down the line to determine if there are better examples that are more recent. The section on reef conservation, in particular, may need updating at some point but it would be easy to do so. The hyperlinks provided link to sites that appear to be active and curated regularly, though these may need to be checked periodically to be sure they still link to the intended source.
The text is well-written and engaging. It is appropriately written for an audience of undergraduates learning about tropical biology at the introductory level. I appreciated the pages that introduced each major chapter (there are 5) and provided the "essential" questions that guide the chapter content.
I did not observe any inconsistency in terminology or framework.
Chapter sections are not overly lengthy. Longer topics are divided nicely with subheadings. An instructor could easily assign chapters and chapter section based on the topic schedule of their particular course. For example, if I want my students to learn about why coral reefs are colorful, I can direct them to "Chapter 1: Section 5 (Coral Reef Colors)" and provide the link that navigates directly to that section. Or, they can access it from the clickable table of contents. Additionally, if I would like them to dig in to the topic further, I can assign reading from the source links embedded in the chapter section text.
I think the text could use some reorganizing. The sections on reef fishes and the major marine phyla seem oddly placed. It might be better to include both of these in an appendix that follows the other three chapters. The appendices can updated in subsequent editions with common organisms found in additional taxonomic groups, like algae, invertebrates, deep water fishes, reptiles/birds, mammals etc. This would be particularly helpful for students taking a field course in a similar location (e.g. tropical northwest Atlantic/Caribbean). I disagree with the reviewer who stated that the information in the "Keene State College Outreach" section is not appropriate for the Reef Conservation chapter. However, it would be helpful to explicitly explain in this section why outreach is important for conservation.
This is one of the most nicely designed open textbooks that I have seen. The text, images and video are visually appealing and appear to be free of issues. Some navigation issues exist with some of the direct hyperlinks in the text. For example, in the Noisy Oceans section, there is a link to a National Geographic piece from Jan 2011, but unfortunately it is "subscriber only" content. Several links in the "Symbiotic Relationships" section navigate to the same NOAA "For Students" homepage. Also, some links open in a new tab (this is preferable) while others do not. Thus, you have to click back to return to the open textbook.
There are some minor issues, mainly with consistency. The authors should agree on a standard format for figure captions and subheadings, for example. Some attention to the conventions of taxonomic names is also required (e.g. captialize or not; italicize or not).
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. There is a section of the text that focuses on indigenous people and their role in conservation, as well as a section written by a student about her outreach experience in a Caribbean nation that is relevant to cultural competency. The authors could, however, take care to highlight the work of tropical biologists and ecologists from diverse backgrounds. They also could include a section in the "environmental threats" chapter that is focused on environmental justice and climate justice for communities that live near and are dependent on coral reefs.
I am inspired by the concept of open pedagogy and think it is extraordinary that this text was entirely written and edited by students and former students of the Keene State College Tropical Marine Biology course taught by Dr. Karen Cangialosi. What an awesome achievement! I look forward to sharing it with my own students, and considering a project like this in the future.
According to the textbook title, “A student’s guide to tropical marine biology”, a reader will expect information about the main tropical marine ecosystems such as mangrove, seagrass and coral reefs; nevertheless, the textbook mainly includes... read more
According to the textbook title, “A student’s guide to tropical marine biology”, a reader will expect information about the main tropical marine ecosystems such as mangrove, seagrass and coral reefs; nevertheless, the textbook mainly includes information about one of these marine ecosystems, the coral reefs. The information provided for mangrove and seagrass is briefly mentioned, such as only one section in chapter one. Regarding the information about the coral reef ecosystems, the textbook’s authors did an excellent recompilation about general and specific information. In the textbook section about “Introduction and Authors”, the authors state that there are three goals of their written contribution to tropical marine biology: “understanding the system, identifying problems, and evaluating solutions”. Regarding the goal of “identifying problems”, the authors fully cover the topic with the provided information. However, the textbook goal about “evaluating solutions” is not fully achieved because the authors provide solutions for only three of the eight environmental threats. Finally, the textbook includes an effective index with sections and subsections, and even though a glossary is not included, there are hyperlinks where more information is provided about certain topics.
It is desirable that the authors include the hyperlinks, in-text citations/references from some particular data provided so the reader would be able to double-check the accuracy of the information. The only sections that include in-text citations and/or references are the ones in chapter 5 about “Marine Major Phyla”. For example, in chapter 1 section 4 states that the Great Barrier Reef length is around 1200 miles, but there is no hyperlink allowing the reader to confirm this information. According to Wikipedia, there is contrasting information that states the Great Barrier Reef is 1,400 miles long. Also, the included figures are not cited in the text so it's sometimes hard to determine which figure belongs to which information. Finally, here are some corrections that need to be addressed: -In section 4, chapter 1, states that “Calcareus Algae also add their sediments to the structure”. This statement should be corrected as "Calcareus Algae also add their fixed calcium carbonate." -In section 4, chapter 1, the sizes of the two referred atolls are not correct. The decimal point should be a comma. -In section 7, chapter 1, there is a hyperlink referring to the number of fish species that are reported in a coral reef ecosystem, but the information provided in the hyperlink did not confirm this information. -In section 26, chapter III, an image of an algal colony is referred to as a “Multicellular”. This should be corrected. -In chapter IV, section “Keene State College Outreach”, the authors could tell a shorter story about their own experience taking an overseas class, as this information is not directly related to the chapter goal “Reef Conservation”.
The text includes relevant and updated information about different topics. Also, the authors provide hyperlinks that let readers visit more specific information. Finally, the hyperlinks include information that is updated or from websites that are continuously updated. In conclusion, the content of the textbook is up-to-date.
The authors write in an engaging and fresh style that keeps the reader's attention in a personal way. For example, in the introductory part of most chapters, the authors clearly state the questions that will be addressed so the readers can expect the type of information that will be included. The authors did not use a lot of technical terms so the information is easy to understand for readers that have a general background in high school biology. In some cases, even when the authors used technical terms, these are explained in a way that is easy to assimilate. Moreover, the hyperlinks provided by the authors let readers deepen their knowledge in some technical and more complicated terms. In conclusion, the text is easy to understand and even enjoyable.
The text is consistent and written in an engaging way.
The text is composed of five major chapters, and each one is subdivided into several sections. In most of the chapters (I, III, IV, V), the authors pointed out the questions that would be addressed. This approach lets readers understand the upcoming material. In the section “Introduction and Authors”, a general explanation is provided about the author’s background, goals of the textbook and tools included. In particular, in chapter II, the information included about the different fish species does not follow the same modules and organization so the information is hard to compare/contrast. In some sections, the information is not divided into modules. In conclusion, the text is easy to read and navigate.
The text is organized in five major chapters, each chapter containing several sections. The information provided in the first four chapters is about coral reefs. The chapters about coral reefs are organized in logical structure from general to specific information so the reader will be able to understand the basics about coral reef ecosystems (i.e. formation, diversity, taxonomy, etc) and also more specific topics about environmental threats and conservation efforts for this ecosystem. The final chapter is about the major marine phyla, and according to the chapter's introduction, it is hard to understand the logic or link between this chapter and the previous ones, about coral reefs. In conclusion, the text is well organized but there is room for some improvement.
In general, the text works perfectly and there are no interface issues. Regarding the image quality, most of them are of high quality and representative of the text, but a few ones need to be modified (i.e. Figure 3 from Arena, Jordan and Spieler, 2007). Finally, there are some hyperlinks that do not have free access, such as the National Geographic Noisy Oceans links.
The text is well written and there are only a few formats and spelling mistakes: 1) La Nina/El Nino should be spelled La Niña/ El Niño. 2) There are some paragraphs that do not contain a period. 3) There are some species names that are not italicized (i.e. "Alpheus floridanus, Chaetodon capistratus, Acropora"). 4) There are some figure captions that do not follow the same format (i.e. underlined, not underlined). 5) The subtitles do not follow the same format. In some subtitles, some of the keywords are capitalized but in other subtitles, only the first letter of the subtitle is capitalized. 6) In chapter two, the family names are italicized (i.e. Holocentridae), and this needs to be corrected as only Latin names of species names are supposed to be in this format.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. The language that is used throughout the text is inclusive and engaging.
This book can be inspiring for other college students that also are interested in communicating knowledge in a written way.
Table of Contents
- I. Coral Reefs and Diversity
- II. Common Fish in the Coral Reef
- III. Environmental Threats
- IV. Reef Conservation
- V. Major Marine Phyla
About the Book
A Student’s Guide to Tropical Marine Biology is written entirely by students enrolled in the Keene State College Tropical Marine Biology course taught by Dr. Karen Cangialosi.Our goal was to investigate three main aspects of tropical marine biology: understanding the system, identifying problems, and evaluating solutions. Each of the sections contains chapters that utilize openly licensed material and images, and are rich with hyperlinks to other sources. Some of the most pressing tropical marine ecosystem issues are broken up into five sections: Coral Reefs and Diversity, Common Fishes to the Coral Reef, Environmental Threats, Reef Conservation, and Major Marine Phyla. These sections are not mutually exclusive; repetition in some content between chapters is intentional as we expect that users may not read the whole book.
About the Contributors