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Unformatted text preview: Ecology Research Project
This project is designed to give you some hands-on experience in ecological or ethological fieldwork and
applications of the scientific method to your original ideas. Working in a small group, you will design, conduct,
and report on a project. As a field project, it must primarily be conducted at a field site, although a lab
component may be included if performed during scheduled open lab times. The project must be designed to test
a reasonable hypothesis with scientific rigor.
Research groups shall consist of three or four students. Everyone in the group must participate in all aspects
of the project! These aspects include: initial planning and experimental design; literature review; obtaining
access permission and needed permits; gathering or constructing equipment, conducting the actual experiment;
writing the proposal and abstract; and presenting the oral report. If you are the loner type that prefers to work
alone — get over it! Teamwork and collaboration is mostly how research is done nowadays.
You may use any of the techniques we have been practicing in the class exercises. Or you may use some new
methods that you have discovered in the literature or developed on your own if we can get the necessary
equipment and supplies. Keep in mind that you only have a very limited amount of time, probably not that much
field experience, and very limited equipment. Restrict your project to a do-able study within these constraints.
Try to create a plan of action that will allow you to experience a variety of techniques. For example, if you
decide to survey aquatic invertebrates in Stevens Creek, add a component assessing the water quality or adjacent
riparian plant community too. Or compare sites such as a pristine location with one more urbanized or invaded
by exotic species.
Our goal is to familiarize you with several basic protocols, with the necessary practical limitations imposed, and
with the joys and challenges of fieldwork. I will try to accompany you at least once on your fieldwork to share
in the good times.
q Be specific with your objectives. Stay focused on what you need to do, when you need to do it.
q Select a local study site. Don’t spend unnecessary time and gas driving repeatedly to a distant site.
q Don’t select a project that takes longer than you have!
q Do a thorough literature search on the organisms, community, and sampling methods you wish to study. If
a similar experiment has already been done, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
q Plan your study logistics well ahead of time. Be sure that the necessary equipment is available or can be
constructed when you need it. Reserve gear in advance. Don’t assume that something will be there only to
find out it’s been checked out by another group.
q If you are hoping to work in a park or open space preserve, you should contact the agency responsible for
managing that site to request permission to conduct the specific procedures desired. They may require a
written proposal from you specifying your methods, dates, and objectives. It’s best if in return you get the
permission approved in writing also and keep a copy with you in the field in case you are questioned.
Typically, most local agencies are happy to encourage research as long as it does not damage or interfere
with their mission. Some sites have restricted access. And some organisms or habitats have special
designation requiring state or federal permits for any manipulations — it is unlikely you have time to
process such paperwork within this academic session.
q Be minimally invasive with your procedures and limit your impact on the organisms and communities you
are trying to study. Be especially aware of sensitive habitats and rare species.
q Be prepared to invest a lot of time in your project. Even though some release time from class labs is
provided, do not plan on getting it all done at those times. Remember that most animal activity occurs early
in the morning or just before dark.
q Do not procrastinate! Time is precious. Get started on defining your objectives, doing literature reviews,
scoping out possible study sites, and obtaining needed permissions and equipment as soon as possible. (I.e.,
NOW!) Remember, you need to have your rough draft of a proposal by Monday, July 13, and a complete
plan and proposal to present to the class on Tuesday, July 14!
q Be sure that everyone gets to try all the components of the project! Rotate jobs so that each member of
your team gets a chance to try each activity and technique. Possible Nearby Study Sites
• De Anza College campus (Cupertino)
• Stevens Creek County Park (Cupertino)
• Rancho San Antonio County Park & Open Space Preserve (Cupertino)
• McClellen Ranch Park (Cupertino)
• Fremont-Older Open Space Preserve (Cupertino)
• Palo Alto Baylands (Palo Alto)
• Los Trancos Open Space Reserve (Palo Alto/Los Altos)
• JD Grant County Park (Mt. Hamilton)
• Alum Rock Park (e. San Jose)
• Guadalupe Oak Grove Park (sw. San Jose)
• Los Alamitos Creek Park (sw. San Jose)
• Sanborn County Park (Saratoga)
• Montalvo County Park (Saratoga)
• Lexington Reservoir County Park (Los Gatos)
• Los Gatos Creek Trail & Percolation Ponds
Relevant Agencies & Organizations
• MPROSD (Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
• POST (Peninsula Open Space Trust)
• CNPS (California Native Plant Society)
• SCVWD (Santa Clara Valley Water District)
• USFWS (United States Fish & Wildlife Service)
• SFBNWR – ([Don Edwards] San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge)
• CDFG (California Department of Fish & Game)
• CDF (California Department of Forestry)
• USGS (United States Geological Survey)
• CAS (California Academy of Sciences)
• Audubon Society
• Nature Conservancy
• Yerba Buena Nursery [specializing in native plants]
Examples of Past Student Projects
• Aquatic arthropod survey of Guadalupe River below Almaden/Quicksilver Park.
• Territorial and nesting behavior of western bluebirds in JD Grant County Park.
• Effects of wild pig rooting on vegetation in JD Grant County Park.
• Small mammal live trapping on a private cattle & horse ranch in Morgan Hill.
• Larval aquatic insects of Stevens Creek.
• Vegetation survey of coast redwood forest understory in Sanborn Park.
• Soil arthropod comparison (coast redwood vs. oak woodland) in Sanborn County park.
• Restoration efforts along Almaden Creek, southwest San Jose.
• Resource partitioning by shorebirds at Palo Alto Baylands.
• Incidence of sudden-oak-death (SOD) on Soda Springs Road, Los Gatos.
• Incidence of and species killed by sudden-oak-death along Skyline Blvd.
• Behavior patterns/habitat utilization of black-tail deer at Rancho San Antonio.
• Nesting behavior of Coopers hawks at Rancho San Antonio.
• Behavior of western fence lizards in fallen trees at Rancho San Antonio County Park.
• Insect & bird pollinators of native plants in Fremont-Older Open Space Preserve.
• Night-lighting survey of insects in Los Trancos open Space Preserve.
• Behavior of great blue herons in the nesting colony along Los Gatos Creek.
• Survey of and habitat utilization by birds on the De Anza campus.
• Eastern gray squirrel densities related to artificial food sources, De Anza campus. Project Pitch
Name _________________________ Group ____________________________ Please describe three ideas for your group project in the space below. You will present these ideas to
your group, hear their ideas, and vote on one topic for your project. Idea 1
General description of methods: Idea 2
General description of methods: Idea 3
General description of methods: Biology 6C- Summer 2009 BIOLOGY 6C FIELD PROJECT — PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL
(Note: this is a preliminary proposal. That means it is subject to considerable modification. Don’t worry about getting it
exactly the way it will work out. Save the obsession over details for the final report. However — expressing yourself
clearly and eloquently is still important.) 1. Name the three or four members of your project group:
PHONE: EMAIL: 2. Working title of your project: 3. What are the primary objectives of this study?
[I.e., what do you intend to survey/compare/study? What are the goals of the project?] 4. State your working hypothesis. 5. Study sites: [park, reserve, property, etc.] 6. General methods you plan to use: 7. List of equipment & supplies: 8. List of background reference consulted: [At least two by now — not a textbook or encyclopedia.] ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/11/2012 for the course BIO 6C taught by Professor Bruceheyer during the Summer '11 term at DeAnza College.
- Summer '11