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Thursday, May 10, 2012

VARIABLE CIRCULAR PLOT LAB DEMONSTRATES RESEARCH COMPLEXITY

 
The detectability curve for the Brown Creeper provides a mechanism for computing population densities.
Upgrades of the AP Environmental Science lab, Variable Circular Plot, have yielded a college-level investigation into bird community relationships.  It is based on an actual study of forest bird communities and is designed to introduce students to the complexities of real scientific research.  In particular, it illustrates the following:


1. Modern environmental science research is dependent upon tools made available through advanced mathematics.
2. Large samples are essential for uncovering patterns in nature that are distinguishable from random variation.
3. Statistical considerations like sampling independence must be considered if data gathered are to be validly interpreted.
4. Data may be categorized as continuous or categorical, and doing so affects the type of analyses that can be performed.
5. Real scientific investigations often require teams of individuals to work together in order to gather sufficient data to evaluate hypotheses.
6. A first step in understanding data gathered is exploratory data analysis, which includes graphing raw data to preview them for the occurrence of patterns.
7. Developing greater insights into findings often involves using synthetic data- data derived from raw numbers; e.g.converting numbers to percents, converting counts of birds into population density estimates.
8. Completely understanding what an investigation shows is a complex task that involves examining data from multiple points of view.
9. Because hypotheses to be tested are not explicitly spelled out, students must consider what hypotheses are testable with available data and which of these hypotheses are worthy of consideration.

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