What is the project about?

In the fields of animal behaviour and animal ecology students are often taught about classic studies. However, standard lecturing techniques tend not to convey the true excitement, innovations and practicalities that underpin the research. By way of example Alex Kacelnik tested the notion that animals forage optimally by training nesting starlings to forage from a feeder that was located at varying distances from the nest. To replicate such a study within the confines of both the academic year and the timetable would be virtually impossible, with costs far exceeding the benefits. Thus, this project sets out address this by capturing video footage of real birds foraging for nest material at various distances from the nest. By making this footage available on-line, students will be able to collect real data that will enable them to test the underlying concept that animals forage optimally (or not).

Who is working on the project?

Dr Paul Eady

Dr Charles Deeming

Mr Chris du Feu (Treswell Wood Bird Study Group)

Student: Mr Mark Edwards

Why are we undertaking this project?

The main aims are to:

bring to life one of the classic studies in Behavioural Ecology
allow large cohorts of students to engage in the collection and analysis of data that relate to a classic study
deepen students understanding of the difficulties and vagaries of collecting field data
appreciate the difficulties of hypothesis testing when using ecological data

What will the project achieve?

An online video resource of birds collecting nest material from a dispenser. Students will be able to collect real data from this footage (i.e. time spent at the dispenser) and use these data to test functional hypotheses about behaviour.

A better educational experience for the students allowing them to explore in more detail one of the classic studies in animal behaviour.

Training and experience for the named student field worker.

A more efficient yet more realistic learning resource ? in the life sciences we are facing larger and larger class sizes, making realistic practical exercises ever more difficult to deliver. An online resource such as this will offer students a flexible learning opportunity that in the long run (i.e. after the initial investment) will ease pressure on resources whilst enhancing the quality of the experience.

Possibly a research output ? to my knowledge, no-one has ever looked to see if animals forage for nest material according to optimality theory.

Engagement with the concept of ?citizen science? by working on this project with a member of the public.

When is the project taking place?

Spring 2012

What is the project cost?