Plant Structure: The structural basis of plant functionMartin Witchard
Department of Botany, The University of Queensland
Plant Structure is a very good introduction to the plant sciences dealing with morphology and anatomy. While there are fewer tertiary institutions teaching this material such knowledge is still valuable in a range of disciplines including agriculture, ecology and general biology. I would envisage it as being primarily used by undergraduate students in first, second or third year level subjects.
Within the program, a 'point and click' interface is used to guide the user through a series of hierarchical trees from general to specific information. Users can navigate easily both within and between topics and menus. The information itself is presented in the form of text, speech and/or images where appropriate. The speech 'guides' complement the topic presented and may lead the user to other steps.
The content is quite comprehensive and divided into logical components. The support documentation for the program is only very basic and merely outlines how to navigate through the program using the various buttons and icons.
I would like to have seen some more Australian examples (e.g. Eucalyptus as an example of an isobilateral dicot leaf), and the lack of useful terms such as phyllode and cladode in the Glossary section is an oversight.
The images are very useful, although some suffered in terms of resolution (blurred edges) and colour tones (tending yellowish/greenish in slide materials).
Self testing via the in-built tests is handy but not very flexible. If an incorrect answer is selected the caption 'snaps' back to its original position. There is also no facility for recording progress made throughout the tests.
As a self-paced instructional tool this CD-ROM is very good. In combination with books such as the 'Photoatlas for Botany' (Perry and Morton, Wadsworth) or 'Atlas of Plant Structure' (Bracegirdle and Miles, Heinemann) it would be an excellent resource.
The program was tested on a Pentium 166 MMX computer with 32 Mb RAM, 800 x 600 x 16 bit display, 8 x CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster 16 and Windows 98.
UniServe Science News Volume 14 November 1999
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