Some students think that best part of science class is the doing part. This is a lesson that puts you in the driver’s seat; you become a scientist by taking important ecological data to “paint a picture of your ecosystem.” If you enjoy using scientific equipment and taking important measurements outside, maybe you should consider a career in field ecology.
Your teacher will lead you through field methods.
For each field protocol you follow:
Record data in the attached data sheets.
Think about the questions you would like to answer by analyzing your data sets.
Make graphs as instructed by your teacher.
How to Create Your Study Site
Study Site Parameters
10 meters x 10 meters
Undeveloped, no buildings, asphalt or concrete
Contains some vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses)
Within walking distance from your school
Stakes or small survey flags
10 meter tape measure
40 meters of string
Recording tools (pen and paper, computer, etc.)
1. Mark the 1st corner of your site with a stake.
2. Take a 90 degree bearing with your compass and measure 10 meters.
3. Optionally, mark the area with your string, 10 meters on each side.
4. Mark the second corner with a stake.
5. Continue with these steps using the compass to create a 10 meter square study site.
6. Take a GPS reading of the four corners and record.
7. Take a picture of the study site from a variety of views.
8. Optionally, draw a map of the study site.
9. Record the date and time of the establishment of your study site.
10. In writing, describe your study site.
Now, you can begin scientific monitoring at your study site. Use the attached data sheets to record data.
Collecting Camera Trap Data
Specialized camera for camera trapping (motion activated)
Computer to upload images
Large stake for mounting camera (or a tree or a big rock)
1. Choose an area within your study site where you suspect animals visit.
2. Mount the camera roughly waist high on the stake, tree or rock facing the place you believe to be an animal pathway.
3. Take the GPS point of your camera trap placement.
4. Check the captured images on your camera after 2 or 3 days. If you did not capture any photos of animals, find an alternative spot to place your camera.
5. Download pictures on a regular basis and record the names of the animal images you capture.
6. Send in your best images to the TEAM website folks.
Collecting Vegetation Data
Recording tools (pen and paper, computer, etc)
iPhone app, computer or books to help identify local plants
1. Count and map all mature trees in your plot (trees larger than 3 inches diameter).
2. For each tree, record the following:
Tree type (broad leafed, needle leafed or identify to common or scientific name)
Count and record all the seedling trees (less than 1 foot tall).
Count and record all the sapling trees (<3 inches diameter, but taller than 1 foot off the ground).
Estimate the % of leaf litter (dead leaves) on the ground versus bare soil or living plants.
Collecting Climate Data
Note: When you set up your site and every time you monitor it thereafter, record climate data. Either use your own instruments or record data from the closest weather reporting station.
Record the following data
Current temperature (in the shade) in degrees Celsius
Precipitation (last 24 hours)
% cloud cover
Animal Evidence Data Collection
Bird ID app or local bird book
Local nature books with foot print and scat identification pictures
1. Identify, count and record all birds seen in the study site during 10 minutes of observation.
2. Identify, count and record all the mammals in the study site during 10 minutes of observation.
3. Identify, count and record all of the nests, tracks and/or scat.
4. Take a photo record of your animal findings.
5. If present, identify, count and record sightings of reptiles, amphibians or fish.
Based on your field experience and the graphs you generated in Excel, answer the following questions:
What did you notice for the first time by setting up or monitoring your class study site?
Were there any surprises in the data? Elaborate.
What did you find challenging in monitoring the study site?
If you did the monitoring on multiple dates, what were some differences you observed? Elaborate.
If you were asked to monitor just one thing in this site, what would you choose and why?
How do you think the weather affects the presence or absence of wildlife sightings at your site?
Why is it important for scientists like the TEAM group to monitor their tropical sites over many years?