Biology (WJEC) - Operation Wallacea

Biology (WJEC)


Introduction: With the arrival of the new specifications for Biology AS and A level, each WRL data set has been examined in detail to see how it might link with the new WJEC Specifications. It is evident that the new WJEC Biology specifications have a strong emphasis on developing mathematical skills and also testing student practical skills by using a written examination.
The WRL datasets could be an ideal resource for the development of both of these skills and the information below summarises their relevance. To find out more about each WRL dataset, follow the WRL code link.  Whilst some links are more directly applicable to the data set than others, they might be a valuable example to use and include in a scheme of work. We also realise that some of our matching may be more ‘on target’ than others (I suppose you can only do this accurately if you actually teach it!) so we welcome any feedback from teachers and how they have or might use this resource. Source: Biology GCE 2015

Specification: Although there are many biological principles contained within the datasets, the following areas are most relevant.

2.1 Component 1 – Energy for life:
5  – Population size and ecosystems.
(b) and (c) populations.
(d) ecosystems.
(f) habitat and community.
(g) trophic levels etc.
(h) succession.
(l) human activities climate change.
6 – Human impact on the environment.
(c) overfishing etc.
(d) and (e) sustainability/conservation issues.
2.2 Component 2 – Continuity of Life:
1 – Evolutionary history.
Classification, species, biodiversity and sampling techniques e.g. capture/recapture.
Practical field work e.g. quadrats etc.
7 – Application of reproduction and genetics.
(d) PCR
2.3 Component 3 – Requirements for life:
3 – Behaviour.
Learning, primate behavior, communication, hierarchies, territory, courtship, reproductive success, sexual selection.

Mathematical requirements:
Almost all datasets will provide a wealth of examples to help develop Scientific Mathematical Skills and the WRL summary below highlights what each set can offer.

  • Arithmetic and numerical computation.
  • Handling data.
  • Algebra.
  • Graphs.
  • Geometry and trigonometry.

n.b the old specification matching is available on request.

Detailed Summary WRL matching table for WJEC Biology – 
WRL code Title and summary
M01D01 The effect of light on coral morphology in the Caribbean.
This task looks at the effect of light/depth on the morphology of a named coral species. Analysis is via photographs (it could be an individual or group activity) and the data is plotted and analyzed using a spreadsheet – full instructions are provided. The statistics can be approached at a number of levels, from plotting graphs to an introduction to regression analysis.
M01D02 Variation in habitat quality between two Indonesian coral reefs.
Two Indonesian coral reefs are compared using video footage taken along 6 transects. The analysis can be set at a number of different levels and includes plotting graphs, calculation of standard deviation and error and error bars.
M01D03 Temperature tolerance of lionfish in Indonesia
This physiological experiment compares how 20 lionfish adapt to increasing water temperatures by being placed in specially designed water tanks. The data can be plotted simply or be treated in more complex manner using statistical tests including standard deviation, regression and coefficient of variation. Lionfish are also significant predators and could pose a real threat by being significant invasive species.
M01D04 Interspecific variation in anemonefish (clownfish) calls
This study looks at how the calls differ and think about how and why this might be achieved. The first research question involves plotting data collected by divers, calculating means and utilizing error bars, standard deviation and t-tests for analysis.
Research Question2 is far more involved and should only be attempted by students who are confident with the manipulation of figures e.g. scatter plots, natural logs and regression analysis.
This data set is particularly useful in linking together ideas about evolution.
M02D01 Population estimates of Hog Island Boa Constrictors
The population of Hog Island Boa Constrictors (located in the Caribbean Sea) are estimated using mark-recapture techniques.   The data is analysed using two different methods and the differing results compared and discussed.
M02D02 Assessing bird point counts from a Honduran cloud forest
The study looks at species richness, proportion of endemic species and how altitude affects the populations of birds in Mesoamerica. The exercise involves constructing scatter plots with trend lines.
M02D03 Comparison of bird survey techniques
This exercise focuses on how scientists in a national park (Cloud forest) in Honduras can determine which is the best method to use for sampling forest birds using mist nets and point counts. This study also gives an insight into the methods used by scientists to measure biodiversity. Graphs are plotted and trend lines compared.
M02D04 Camera trapping to assess large mammal populations in Amazonia
Camera traps are used to assess the populations of red brocket deer and ocelot over a 2 year period in the Pacaya Samiria Nature Reserve in Peru: bar charts are drawn and chi-squared values calculated.
M03D01 Bull elephant dominance relationships after contraception
This study investigates the effect of vasectomies on the behaviour of young bull elephants in a small herd in Pongola Game Reserve in South Africa. Students identify the 8 bull elephants from identification sheets and photographs and then construct a ‘dyadic dominance matrix’ (pairs of competing individuals) from collected data and then plot the results in a scatter plot .
M03D02 Interspecific differences in fiddler crab feeding rates
This study compares 3 different species feeding at 2 different heights above the low tide line. The results are analyzed using column charts, means, standard deviation and error bars. There are 2 research questions looking at feeding rates between species and how rates might differ for the same species living at different tidal heights.
M03D03 Howler Monkey vocalisation
Howler monkeys have high infanticide levels (64%) due to incoming males systematically killing infants in the group.
This study analyses vocal data to assess the number of males making the calls and heard by females. Data from long-term observations of ‘non-mother’ and ‘mothers with young’ behaviour are looked at to show evidence that females with young are more vigilant when listening to calls from male groups.
Graphs are plotted after processing the behavioural data.
M03D04 Surgeonfish feeding behaviour on coral reefs
This study compares two feeding strategies (focused and diffuse feeding) for two different species of surgeonfish on two separate reefs. The results are analysed and help biologists to understand how different species are able to co-exist on a coral reef. The study might also be used to predict how the reef community might react to environmental change due to human activities e.g. pollution. Means, standard errors, bar chart with error bars.
M04D01 Prevalence of chytrid in two critically endangered species of tree frog
This data set investigates the prevalence of infections chytrid fungus amongst amphibian populations in Cusuco National Park, Honduras. Individuals of two tree frog species were collected from various sites throughout the forest, and swab samples taken for genetic analysis to identify which individuals were infected. The exercise involves analysing the data and then plotting two simple bar charts to show differences between species and between locations.
M04D02 Quantifying forest disturbance in cloud forest
In 2013 120 20mx20m cloud rainforest plots were surveyed by students and scientists in Honduras and this investigation looks at ways to analyze, compare and present the data using a wide range of graphs and tables. There are also many opportunities to use the data for a discussion on the possible causes of any disturbance and threats to rainforest. Many of the data sets can be used to demonstrate statistical tests such as chi-squared and the t-test.
M04D03 Dung beetle community structure in cloud forest
Dung beetles are important organisms in rainforest habitat maintenance and they can also be used as sensitive biological indicators of disturbance and biodiversity change. This data set looks at how you identify dung beetles using a dichotomous key, investigates the relationship between dung beetles and altitude and then a wider consideration of numerous other factors which might affect their community structure.   Tables are produced and scattergrams generated. Tree height using trigonometry is considered.
M04D04 Abundance of bat feeding guilds in the Iwokrama Forest, Guyana
This data set looks at how the varying ‘feeding guilds’ of bats are distributed within the research area and relates this to local habitat type. The raw data is sorted using Excel and then transferred into a summary table and graphs.
M05D01 Identifying overfishing on Indonesian coral reefs
This study examines the evidence for over-fishing by looking at data collected from traditional Indonesian fish fences around Kalepuda island.
Graphs are plotted, standard error calculated and a paired t-test applied to see if there have been any significant changes in the numbers of fish that were caught in 2005 and 2011. This evidence is then used to consider the sustainability of coral reef fisheries in this area of Indonesia.
M05D02 Monitoring agricultural land use in Transylvania.
This data set looks at how different habitat types are assessed and monitored using GIS technology within an EU Natura 2000 Conservation site in Transylvania. Habitat data is analyzed from GIS maps and some simple conclusions drawn. The analysis includes estimating the % area for a particular habitat type and then representing the data graphically.
This type of data will be used to monitor change and will help to produce practical conservation management plans for the future (Farming practice versus Biological diversity).
M05D03 Quantifying the effects of fishing on Amazonian fish
The study looks for evidence of change in population number and structure and relates these to the fishing activities of local communities and the possible effects of a severe drought in 2010.
Analysis uses class interval or bin widths to compare the fish populations. The study provides a good opportunity to discuss sustainability of fish stocks in delicate ecosystems such as the Amazon river and provoke further thoughts about current threats such as climate disruption/change. The data would be very suitable for further statistical treatment in order to determine degrees of significance over time.


Copyright: these resources are the sole property of Operation Wallacea although they may be used freely for educational purposes within the classroom or for internal examinations.  Further use will require permission which can be gained by email to