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     The development of this key was fueled by the frustration of UNH students with traditional taxonomic keys. When attempting to identify organisms collected from lakes, we often found that the available keys were designed for users with a high level of expertise. Although the differences between zooplankton taxa are not difficult to observe, the layout of traditional taxonomic keys make it very difficult to understand what features to observe and where they are located on the organism. Diagrams of taxonomic features, when provided, are often unclear and are rarely found on the same page as the description of the feature.   Non-expert users of such keys find it very difficult or impossible to accurately identify organisms.  We hope our key will provide a non-intimidating and user-friendly way for a wider audience to learn about zooplankton taxonomy.

     Thus, the construction of this key began as a project of the Zooplankton Ecology class in 2000, a course taught by Jim Haney at the University of New Hampshire. The key has been enlarged and updated with each subsequent class in this course. Our goal is to create an identification key that is simple enough to be used with minimal experience, while on the other hand is accurate enough to be used for scientific studies. We wish to make a key that is readily accessible to all those who wish to use it. For every taxonomic split, we provide well-labeled images detailing the features to be observed. Although we include technical terminology, it is not essential when using the key. We have found that the key is an effective medium for learning the taxonomic terminology rather than an insurmountable barrier. Our continuing goal is to improve the key's utility and promote an interest in the biodiversity and ecology of zooplankton.

     Although identification of an organism is important, it is often only the first step in evaluating its significance.  Where possible we attempt to include ecological notes and references to research on the species.  Completion of this section will require much time and will occur in future versions.  Seeing the movements and behaviors of a living organism can add much to our understanding of a species.    With this in mind, we have added video clips to some of the species pages. 

     We hope to continually improve the key.  Comments and suggestions are welcomed and can be communicated to: jfhaney@unh.edu or Dr. James F. Haney, Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824.