Digital Exercises
Biology: Exploring Idaho's Wildlife

  The Digital Atlas of Idaho presents a rich diversity of information that can help us to understand the biology of our state.  The following exercises will give you the opportunity to explore several ways in which the Atlas can be used.  These exercises will help you to identify Idaho's wildlife, use dichotomous keys, create a list of the species in your favorite area, learn why species live where they do, discover how these species can be conserved for future generations, and much, much, more.  Below are numerous exercises that are either completed or in the process of completion.  To use the completed exercises, click on  the highlighted topics below and have fun exploring Idaho's biological treasures!

I. Identifying Idaho's Wildlife

  Knowing how to identify species of Idaho's wildlife can be a pleasurable and fulfilling experience. It is thrilling to be out in nature and spot an organism, then be able to identify it, know something about it, and even be aware if your sighting represents a range extension or some other bit of interesting data. Learning how to properly identify Idaho's species can be a very important skill. 

There are a number of ways to help identify a species that you have found.  The primary way is by using unique characteristics about a species.  These characters are often used in what is known as a dichotomous key.  A dichotomous key is a tool that biologists use for helping identify a species.

Another useful method for helping you identify species is knowing where they might be found in the state.  Where they are found throughout the state is known as a species' distribution.  Sometimes, two species that are very similar in appearance may not overlap geographically.  Therefore it is useful to know what species are found in your area or the area you will be visiting.

In order for a species to survive in an area, they require specific types of habitat.  For instance, all of the amphibians in Idaho require some type of wet area in order to survive.  Knowing what type of habitat a species requires is also helpful in identifying a species because it limits the number of species that you might find.  For instance, you are unlikely to find many ducks in dry sagebrush.  However, you might expect to find certain types of quail that thrive in desert regions.

II.  Exploring Predicted Species Distribution

  Why are some species of Idaho's wildlife found in only a few areas while others are seemingly found throughout the state?  There are a number of factors that biologists have identified that influence where a species might be found, they include environment conditions, habitat, and presence of other species.



Lessons byStephan Burton, 2000