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  • Writer's pictureJithin Vijayan

Online Learning Module | What can turning rocks tell us about land-use change impacts on animals living in a rock outcrop?

Excited to introduce an online learning module Between the rock and a hard place: What can turning rocks tell us about land-use change impacts on animals living in a rock outcrop?, developed as part of the OCELOTS (Online Content for Experiential Learning of Tropical Systems) Fall 23-Spring 24 Incubator.


The module is based on our research in the Konkan rock outcrops of India, part of the Western Ghats- Sri Lanka biodiversity hot spot.



The incubator is a partnership between the OCELOTS network and BioQUEST/QUBES (Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis), to develop open-access, online resource library of learning modules in tropical ecology. The goal of these modules is to spark excitement in undergraduate biology courses by broadening cultural and geographic perspectives, enhancing principle-based reasoning and quantitative skills in ecology, and changing the way that students learn biology.


In this online module created using the Gala platform, students learn about how the movement of large rocks as part of agricultural land use changes in a natural rock outcrop are affecting rock-dwelling fauna.


A detailed teaching guide is provided, which helps instructors and students design a study and analyze data to create conservation strategies within a unique socio-ecological scenario. Student will use data from time-constrained searches for rock-dwelling animals across land-use types, and quantify how microhabitat availability and animal abundance are impacted by human disturbance.



Exposure to the human-nature relationships and conservation issues in this under-studied tropical habitat is one of the highlights of this module.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the ecology and human-nature relationship in a tropical rock outcrop system.

  2. Quantify the rock availability and rock- dwelling animal prevalence across various land-use types

  3. Use rock-turning data to assess the impact of land-use change on the species occurrence.

  4. Integrate research results in creating conservation measures suggestions in a threatened habitat.


The module is designed with a flow through the research framework. The students are made

aware of the study area and system, and key concepts needed for understanding the interpretations in the beginning. As students follow the text, multiple questions are posed to

allow for student reflection as they progress through the module. These questions are suggested for student group discussions, followed by the instructor’s review.


Statistical parts are kept to the very minimum to allow students to complete the research story easily.




Many thanks to Ann Rusell, Anne Bower, Edward Waisanen, Rohit Naniwadekar and

Suzane Macey for their suggestions that have helped improve the online module.


Support was provided by: A grant from the United States National Science Foundation (DBI-RCN-UBE 2120141).


We thank On the Edge Conservation (UK), and The Bombay Environmental Action Group and The Habitat Trust (India) for funding the original research work.


Interested in adapting this module to your classrooms, or translating it to your regional language? Please feel free to contact: jithinvjyothis@gmail.com


Happy teaching!


Jithin, V., Watve, A. (2024). Between a rock and a hard place. What can turning rocks tell us about land-use change impacts on animals living in a rock outcrop?. OCELOTS, QUBES Educational Resources. doi:10.25334/VHD5-K932

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