How to Identify and Interpret Evolutionary Tree Diagrams, a report from our BEAST (Biology Education Area for Scholarship and Teaching)



To help biology teachers and students learn how to more deeply interpret, understand and gain knowledge from diagrams that represent ancestor-descendant relationships and evolutionary lineages, Nancy Pelaez published a research report on How to Identify and Interpret Evolutionary Tree Diagrams with Drs. Yi Kong (Biology Education Curriculum & Instruction) and Trevor Anderson (Visualization in Biochemistry Education Research Group). The report, online at, provides examples from a study of tree-shaped diagrams in the journal Science to illustrate how to distinguish evolutionary trees from other tree-shaped representations that are easily misunderstood as visualizing evolutionary relationships. Findings such as this figure of an unrooted tree (a) and two rooted possibilities (b and c) are provided to inform teaching practice in this important area of biology education.

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