Home Course Description Course Application Practical Information Class Projects Gallery
Image:Students at work 

Summer 2018

Biol 408 Ecological Methods


Biol 409 Research in Reptile Ecology

Course Descriptions & Itinerary

A Syllabus & Intinerary for Ecological Methods & Research in Reptile Ecology June 2018

Field Course Itinerary in 2018 simplest

Be Empowered With Rationale

(Request pdf versions of the full syllabus from Roger.Anderson@wwu.edu)

Western Field Biology Course Offerings, Summer 2018
By Roger A. Anderson
Professor of Biology
Western Washington University

Two Courses, to be taken simultaneously:
Ecological Methods Biol 408 (6 Cr)
Research in Reptile Ecology Biol 409 (6 Cr)

Dates: Tuesday June 19, 2018 to Friday August 3, 2018
Locations: WWU campus and Oregon Great Basin Desert (Harney Co, OR)
Website Information: Check Biology Department Website often for course information updates
Targeted Students: Upper-division Biology and Environmental Science majors
Prerequisite: Upper-level course in Ecology, equivalent to Biol 325 or ESCI 325 at WWU, or permission from course instructor


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Begin integrated, concurrent classes on WWU campus,

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Leave for research site in Alvord Basin, Harney Co, OR

Wednesday June 27

Set-up camp & research plot & capture horned lizards

June 28 to July 3

Capture, mark, exercise & release lizards

Map plant distributions & measure plants

Develop team research methods

July 4 - July 20

Team Research: Ecological Methods

Team Research: Research in Reptile Ecology 

Saturday, July 21

Return to WWU campus

July 22

Unload & clean gear for a few hours in afternoon

July 23 - August 3

Process pitfall trap and fecal pellet samples

Transcribe video focal samples

Develop raceway data from high-speed videos

Enter & edit field data

Preliminary analyses & presentation of data sets

Write preliminary, integrated research paper/poster

Friday August 3, 2018

Formal Course Schedule Ends


Field Course Descriptions:

Course Instructor: Roger A. Anderson, Biology Department, WWU

Biol 408, Ecological Methods: 6 credits (quarter-system,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.
Biol 409, Research in Reptile Ecology: 6 credits (quarter-system, A-F grading).

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, first as $1200 deposit (and serve as part of the special course fees) by early May to lock in your position in the class; these funds also allow us time to purchase expendable field supplies (e.g., radiotransmitters). The rest of the special course fees (about $300) and the tuition and standard university fees should be paid to WWU (specific information from Summer Session Office) by June 18.  The tuition cost per credit is about $250 (more for students that are not residents of Washington state). 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. Total costs for the pair of courses are a bit over $4600 for WA residents and about $5800 for non-residents (but Dr. A typically refunds USA students' round-trip travel costs). Both courses must be taken concurrently and run from June 19 to August 3, 2018.

Time Commitment:

45 days, and days in the field average 8-10 hrs. Only a few afternoons and mornings are not scheduled "class time."

See Simplified Itinerary, above

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 joint efforts of students, TA, and professor will produce a useful and valuable database and a perspective on the ecology of reptiles in the northwestern U.S.A. that is lacking heretofore.  These efforts will be highly heuristic, and are likely to lead to further field courses and research efforts.  Students will be encouraged to present posters and give talks at regional scientific meetings.

            The general learning objectives of these team research projects are to help students understand how to:
            (1) ask scientific questions,
            (2) frame those questions into testable hypotheses,
            (3) set up the research into well-defined procedures with an accurate knowledge of conditions intrinsic and extrinsic to the subject animals,

  1. obtain reliable, statistically analyzable data, and        
  2. communicate results both verbally and in writing, in a scientific paper format.

And yes, the field experience has been designed to be enjoyed.  Student testimonials are available upon request.

Student Requirements:

General requirements for students in Ecological Methods:

            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.

General requirements for students in Research in Reptile Ecology: 

            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.


Recommended Texts:

For Ecological Methods (photocopies of chapters can be borrowed):  
            Wildlife-Habitat Relationships, 2nd Ed, 1998, by Morrison, et al.
                        Suggested Readings in Wildlife-Habitat Relationships:
Chapter 1.  Study of Habitat: A Historical and Philosophical Perspective
Chapter 3, to p.59, The Vegetation and Population Perspectives
                                                (review Box 3.1, 3.2; Table 3.1, 3.2, 3.3; Fig 3.3)
Chapter 4.  The Experimental Approach in Wildlife Science (review Fig 4.1)
Chapter 5.  Measurement of Wildlife Habitat: What to Measure and How to Measure it.
                                                (review Fig 5.2, 5.3, 5.5, 5.6; Table 5.1, 5.2, 5.3)
Chapter 6, to p.180.  Measurement of Wildlife Habitat: When to Measure and How to Analyze.
                                                (review Box 6.1 and Table 6.1)
Chapter 7.  Measuring Behavior (review Fig 7.1)
Chapter 8, pp 248-262.   Of Habitat Patches and Landscapes:
Habitat Heterogeneity and Responses of Wildlife (review Fig 8.4)
Chapter 10, to p. 315. Modeling Wildlife-Habitat Relationships (review Fig 10, Table 10.1, 10.2)

Recommended Reference Texts (all can be borrowed from Dr A) for Ecological Methods:
            Ecological Methodology, 2nd Edition, 1999, by C. J. Krebs
            Ecological Census Techniques, 1996 by W. J. Sutherland
            Research Techniques in Animal Ecology, 2000, by Boitani and Fuller
            Surveying Natural Populations, 1997, by Hayek and Buzas        
            Natural Vegetation of Oregon and Washington, 1973, by Franklin & Dyrness
            North American Terrestrial Vegetation, 1988, by Barbour and Billings
            Sagebrush Country, 1992, by R. J. Taylor

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

            Cascade-Olympic Natural History, 1998, by D. Mathews
            Peterson Field Guide:           Ecology of Western Forests,
            Peterson Field Guide:           Insects of North America


Recommended Reference Texts (all can be borrowed from Dr A) for Research in Reptile Ecology:
            Lizard Ecology,                                                            2007, by Reilly, et al
            Lizard Ecology,                                                             1994, by Vitt & Pianka
            Herpetology,                                      2nd Ed.,             2001, by Zug, et. al.
            Reptiles of Washington & Oregon,                          1995, by H. Brown, et. al.
            Reptiles of the Northwest                                           2002, by St. John
            Handbook of Ethological Methods, 2nd Ed.,         1996, by P. Lehner
            Measuring Behavior,                        2nd Ed.,             1993, by Martin &  Bateson
            Sampling and Statistical Methods for Behavioral Ecologists   1998, by Bart, et. al.

Home    Course Description    Course Application    Practical Information    Class Projects    Photo Gallery