Field Course Descriptions:
Course Instructor: Roger A. Anderson, Biology Department, WWU
Biol 408, Ecological Methods: 6 credits (A-F grading).
Students will learn instrumentation and methodology for field research, and practice it in a field setting. Specifically, students will perform comparative investigations of three meso-habitats by measuring ecologically relevant parameters, such as spatiotemporal variation in microclimate or vegetation, and terrestrial invertebrate abundance and diversity. Must be taken concurrently with Biol 409.
Field research will focus on developing knowledge and understanding of the population, behavioral, and physiological ecology of reptiles. Observational-comparative and experimental methods will be learned. Data collected in BIOL 408 (Ecological Methods) will be analyzed, interpreted, and prepared for publication.Must be taken concurrently with Biol 408).
Special Course Fees:
Payable at the Summer Session Office by June 16. The special course fee for Ecological Methods (Biol 408) is $400. The special course fee for Research in Reptile Ecology (Biol 409) in 2014 is $400. The fee total for both courses combined is $800, which is in addition to normal summer session tuition and fees for 12 credits. These field courses are self-supporting, that is, the special course fees pay for food, travel, expendable field supplies for camping and research, whereas tuition costs are applied more to the purchase of field research equipment and instrumentation. Both courses must be taken concurently and run from June 17 to July 31st, 2014.
45 days, total is 8-10 hrs per field day. Only a few afternoons and mornings are not scheduled "class time."
See PDF document for itinerary information!
Field Course Objectives:
Students will obtain experience in theory and practice of field research, particularly in reptile ecology. Part of the effort is as an entire class; we will measure distribution and abundance of a few focal species of reptiles in three habitats. Students will also pursue small team research projects in behavioral and physiological ecology of reptiles, wherein there is a very real potential for publication.
Because knowing the environmental milieu is essential for an understanding of reptile ecology, equal effort will be placed in an Ecological Methods course. Students will learn and perform a variety of techniques used for measuring essential features of the microclimate (e.g., spatiotemporal patterns in temperature, humidity, wind, direct and reflected insolation), vegetation (plant form, diversity, and distribution), and terrestrial invertebrates (spatiotemporal patterns in distribution, abundance, and diversity). Comparisons of technique effectiveness and reliability will be enhanced by work in three mesohabitats. Both automated instrumentation (e.g., weather station) and hand-held instruments will be utilized.
Upon completion of these courses, students will have the abilities to pursue independently both basic and applied research. Two field courses listed in their transcripts will provide these students with very noteworthy credentials, attractive to graduate programs, government agencies, and environmental assessment firms.
The general learning objectives of these team research projects are to help students understand how to:
And yes, the field experience has been designed to be enjoyed. Student testimonials are available upon request.
1) Each student will briefly review literature on a particular instrumentation or method. This effort will provide a focused perspective that will support the research team’s comparative analysis of two techniques.
2) For each of three mesohabitats, each student will be part of a research team that develops, conducts, analyzes, and provides a comparative analysis of two techniques designed to characterize the environmental or biological parameter. The team participates in the design of a research project, including all sample sizes and statistical tests anticipated, conducts the research, enters data in Excel, analyzes the results with Systat, makes figures with Sigma Plot, and composes a poster in MS Word; and assuming the work integrates well with the Research in Reptile Ecology, then a single, integrated poster will be permitted. The plans for the poster are submitted, reviewed, and resubmitted; with the experience culminating in a team research poster, presumably integrated with the results for Research in Reptile Ecology. Throughout the entire process of the research course, students must document who collected which data, who scribed or recorded which data, who performed which sample analyses, data entry, data editing, graphical and statistical analyses, and who wrote which sections of the paper and poster and who edited the writing. Each student also may be individually evaluated in an oral exit interview by Dr. Anderson.
1) Each student will be part of a research team on the behavioral ecology and physiological ecology of lizards. The team proposes a specific research project chosen among a list of options. Fully explicated techniques that have been tried for their efficacy, including data sheets that are easily placed into Excel format are required. Students must anticipate needed sample sizes. Students perform the research with frequent consultation with the course instructor. Upon return to campus student research teams enter data in Excel, analyze the results with Systat, make figures with Sigma Plot, and compose a poster in MS Word, in an integrated effort with the work for Ecological Methods (poster is the incipient stage for a possible paper for publication). The plans for the poster are submitted, reviewed by other research teams and the course instructor, and resubmitted; with the experience culminating in a team research poster, integrated with the results for Ecological Methods. Throughout the entire process of the research course, students must document who collected which data, who scribed or recorded which data, who performed which sample analyses, data entry, data editing, graphical and statistical analyses, and who wrote which sections of the paper and poster and who edited the writing. Each student also may be individually evaluated in an oral exit interview by Dr. Anderson.
2) All students also will contribute effort to capture-mark-release-recapture studies, and will be able to see the results of their efforts on-line as a poster.
Caveats for prospective students:
Field work requires tent camping in rigorous, primitive conditions. Although venomous snakes will not be studied, they do pose a field hazard, as do stinging insects, and thorns. The high elevation (4000 ft), low humidity, high midday sun, and high heat of afternoon can be problematic if one is not vigilant about avoiding dehydration and overheating. High winds can damage unsecured tents.
The Sagebrush Ocean, 1989, by S. Trimble
Shrubs of the Great Basin, 1985, by H. Mozingo
The Desert’s Past: an natural prehistory, 1993, by D. K. Grayson
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