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Classification is very important to the field of biology. As we continue to discover new species, learn better techniques for analyzing relationships between species (i.e. DNA analysis) and share information internationally it is important to have systems in place to identify and classify organisms. A dichotomous key is a tool that helps to identify an unknown organism. A dichotomous key is a series statements consisting of 2 choices that describe characteristics of the unidentified organism. The user has to make a choice of which of the two statements best describes the unknown organism, then based on that choice moves to the next set of statements, ultimately ending in the identity of the unknown. Dichotomous keys are often used in field guides to help users accurately identify a plant or animal, but can be developed for virtually any object. They are particularly helpful when two species are very similar to one another.
This project is about learning how to use a dichotomous key to identify plants or animals. Through the process of creating their own dichotomous key and field guide the student will sharpen their observation and classification skills, both of which are necessary for success in upper level science courses. The student also builds an appreciation for nature through extended periods of observation.
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state's handbook of Science Safety.