Tree graphics are useful for conveying several important ideas:
- evolutionary relationships
- evolutionary history and common ancestry
- shared traits/characters
- tree thinking
- how scientists figure out evolutionary relationships
However, trees don’t belong in every exhibit about biology. Stop and think — should I really use a tree? Is it going to help me tell the story? Will it make it easier for the viewer to understand what’s being presented? If not, it’s probably not worth trying to weave it in. A tree graphic that is off-topic and does not contribute to your learning goals could distract visitors. Also, keep in mind that although they address evolution, trees are not effective at communicating micro-evolutionary processes such as genetic drift and natural selection.
So will a tree help you convey your message? If so, read on…