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Please note: The DryadLab project is no longer active, but the modules can still be downloaded at the links below.

DryadLab is an educational extension of Dryad. It consists of hands-on data analysis learning activities for advanced placement, undergrad, and graduate-level courses based on data within the repository. The activities were developed as a collaboration between researchers and educators, and tested by educators in the classroom.

Basic Organization

The DryadLab interface is styled after the main repository, and integrates closely with the main repository. It uses a slightly different theme than the main repository content, indicating to users that they aren't looking at normal data.

Items in DryadLab:

  • cleaned and simplified data (which link to the original data in Dryad)
  • learning objects (which link to simplified data and/or original data)
    • teaching guide
    • student material (e.g., worksheets, instructions)
    • documentation on analysis tools and techniques
    • links to online software or other tools

Items in Dryad:

  • originally published dataset
  • link to published article

Not included:

  • blogs, fancy interactive online tools, student projects and portfolios, teacher forums

Target Datasets

  1. Popular Dryad datasets (based on downloads or citations), particularly those arising from NESCent sponsored scientists (e.g. the educator's resource for the Body Size database)
  2. Datasets of high pedagogical value, such as those prioritized by past NESCent education working groups.


A Walk Through the Woods: Data Analysis of Structural Adaptations in Wood

Students will use an authentic data set from Dryad Digital Repository to explore whether evolutionary tradeoffs actually occur in plants and whether evolution has led to tissue distributions that match predictions about efficiency and safety. Students will 1) form hypotheses about the influence of environmental variables on wood structure, 2) test their hypotheses using wood structure data, 3) interpret their results in light of environmental pressures and physiological function, and 4) revise hypotheses as necessary. Students will be able generate a hypothesis, examine a data set, select the appropriate data to test their hypothesis, visualize these data, and evaluate their hypothesis based on the results. The module contains scaffolding, and can be customized to meet the needs of students of varying abilities.

  • Instruction Level: Introductory and advanced undergraduate biology courses, AP high school biology
  • Keywords: hypothesis formulation, hypothesis testing, data visualization, graphing, adaptation, environmental pressures, wood structure and function, ecology, botany, forestry, climate change
  • Download / More about this module

Survivorship in the Natural World

Students will compare idealized survivorship curves with actual survivorship curves through the examination and manipulation of an authentic dataset from the Dryad Digital Repository, allowing students to wrestle with questions about whether or not real data yield results that look like classic models. Students are then able to compare those survivorship curves to age pyramids and life histories. At completion of the module, students will understand that while idealized models have value, they do not represent the real world. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to create and manage data files, and will be able to put data into a more easily accessible form. The module contains scaffolding, and can be customized to meet the needs of students of varying abilities.

  • Instruction Level: Undergraduate (Intro Biology or Intro Ecology), AP Biology
  • Keywords: survivorship, life history, population ecology, demography, life tables, age structure
  • Download / More about this module

Staying Alive: Introduction to Extinction and Extinction Bias

Students will be introduced to different factors that affect extinction risk and will work with an authentic data set on artiodactyls from Dryad Digital Repository to ask their own questions, develop hypotheses and use data to answer those questions. At completion of the module, students will understand that hypotheses are tested by figuring out what expectations are generated by that hypothesis, and making observations to find out whether those expectations are borne out. They will be able to examine a large data set, select the appropriate data, visualize data by making candlestick plots and look for patterns in these data. The module contains scaffolding, and can be customized to meet the needs of students of varying abilities. The module emphasizes the fact that science is an ongoing process and that investigating one scientific question frequently leads to additional questions.

  • Instruction Level: Intro level undergrad biology, AP high school, high school
  • Keywords: extinction, data analysis, graphing, macroevolution, ecology, conservation
  • Download / More about this module


See DryadLab Technology.


The development of DryadLab was supported through the education and outreach program of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and by the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis project, with funding from National Science Foundation grants DBI-0743720, EF-0905606, DBI 1346584, DUE 1446269, DUE 1446258, and DUE 1446284. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funder(s).

Relevant Portions of the Grant Proposal

  • "Datasets of special educational value will be targeted and developed for classroom use through a dedicated education section of the repository."
  • "We will also promote the use of Dryad as an educational tool to teach future scientists about the value of digital data archives."
  • "Datasets of special educational value will receive extra curatorial attention and be presented for student use through a dedicated education section of the repository, acclimating future investigators to a scientific culture in which digitally shared data will play an increasingly important role."
  • "The curators will also target a limited number datasets of special data packages (i.e. those that are frequently downloaded by users, or those that are particularly suitable for educational purposes) for a higher-level of curatorial attention"
  • "DryEd will contain specially prepared datasets designed for student investigations into different aspects of evolutionary biology. Data curators will select a limited number of datasets (1-2 per year) to receive extra curatorial attention, based on popularity or thematic area. Preference will be given to datasets likely to have strong resonance with students (on topics such as the evolution of antibiotic resistance or viral pathogenicity, domestication of companion animals, human origins, origin of life, etc). Curators will work with authors, and with the NESCent Education and Outreach Group, to provide detailed metadata, more extensive background and related material, and a set of suggested exercises appropriate for each dataset. Resources will be targeted at the Advanced Placement, college, and graduate levels. Multiple routes of dissemination will be pursued through the resources of NESCent’s EOG group (see [76])."