• Ha = The abundance of lycosid spiders differs between habitats.
Wolf spiders encountered in the field can readily be identified
to family. If students select a project requiring more detailed identification (to genus or species), the resources found in Box 2 can be
utilized. Spiders can be collected safely using forceps and then both
euthanized and stored in isopropyl alcohol for future identification.
In our field sampling, we took photographs of spiders with an
iPhone 6, using the flash setting to capture reflective eyeshine.
We encountered an average (± SE) of 1.6 ± 0.160 wolf spiders per
Student Feedback & Troubleshooting
square meter and a total of 62 individuals in the backyard habitat.
Conversely, we identified 101 individual wolf spiders, or an aver-
age of 2.5 ± 0.232 per square meter, in the undeveloped field
(Figure 2A, B). The abundance of wolf spiders differed significantly between the two habitats (t = 3.15, P < 0.01). We were therefore
able to reject our null hypothesis (Ho). The most common species
we encountered was the Carolina wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis;
Figure 3A). This is the largest wolf spider in North America, and
their large eyes reflected intensely when illuminated (Ubick
et al., 2005). The characteristic eyeshine was an effective tech-
nique for identification of H. carolinensis, even before the spider
was approached. We also collected smaller individuals belonging
to the genus Pardosa (Figure 3B) but did not identify these
beyond that taxonomic level.
Data were collected for the pilot investigation during the summer,
with two small groups of K–12 students, to test our hypothesis-driven activity and assess the methods. The first group consisted
of three eighth-graders who utilized the same habitats we originally
explored. The second group consisted of four fifth-graders who collected data from an entirely different backyard and field habitat. We
met with both groups separately to discuss the project and asked
each to tackle a subset of the review questions (Box 1). The students were also given the opportunity to use a flashlight in a dark
closet to detect the eyeshine of a living spider we had collected and
placed in a clear jar. After a brief introduction to our chosen sampling methodology, we provided both groups with a meter wheel
and a handful of surveyor’s flags and headed out to their chosen
habitats before the sun went down. Students were observed as they
mapped out their habitats in roughly the same relative shape and
size. As sampling commenced, both groups did an admirable job
of tossing their hoops in random compass directions and worked
diligently with their flashlights to record the number of visible spiders within each quadrat. Students collected samples throughout
each habitat; however, not enough replicate samples were collected
to permit statistical analysis.
Feedback from the students who participated in this project
was positive. All of the students involved in the testing appeared
to thoroughly enjoy the process of throwing their hoops and counting spiders in the beam of the flashlight. Although they liked working with the meter wheel and flags, many failed to understand why
these grids were important to the study, and most thought this step
could have been eliminated. While we still encourage instructors to
introduce this protocol, we acknowledge that it might present an
unnecessary hurdle for certain students. Instructors who teach
younger grade levels, or those supervising students who will need
Figure 2. (A) Total number of spiders observed and (B)
average number (± SE) of spiders per square meter in backyard
and field habitats.
Figure 3. (A) Hogna carolinensis (photo credit: K. Craven). (B)
Pardosa sp. (source: Wikimedia Commons; full citation is
provided in the References).