Despite the importance that taxonomy and species identification have in our current understanding of ecology, evolution, and conservation of organisms, it is a challenging topic to teach. One of the primary reasons for this challenge is the lack of student motivation to learn organism classification and identification, which is often reinforced by curricula that do not show the practical value of taxonomic knowledge. This article describes an inquiry-based learning activity designed to show students the real-world value of organism identification. In this activity, students relate the misidentification of baitfish to the spread of invasive species via the baitfish industry. Students role play as fish ecologists and help a bait shop owner identify the specimens in their baitfish supply and subsequently develop a strategy to ensure that the business is not contributing to the spread of invasive species. By relating the field of taxonomy to species invasions, instructors can show students that they are learning information and gaining skills that have utility outside of the classroom. We found this to be an appealing alternative to other species identification activities, which typically focus on low-level learning, and we are excited to share our approach with the readers of The American Biology Teacher.
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Vol. 83 • No. 4