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Becoming an Observer

Background:

"To do science is to search for repeated

patterns."

― MacArthur

The greatest tool of any scientist is observation. Paying attention to our surroundings allows us to see connections, to understand how the world works, and to gain a true understanding of the beauty of nature.

When we observe, we often notice patterns, which can guide research as they provide evidence for understanding natural processes and relationships. Some of our work lies in documenting and quantifying the patterns that we observe and suggesting processes that could account for those patterns.

Hypotheses are potential or tentative explanations of a particular pattern or observation that one can test and falsify. They represent attempts to explain the mechanisms underlying the observed phenomenon. Hypotheses are a researcher's "best guess" to explain why observations or outcomes has occurred.

You are going to observe nature or people in a naturalistic setting and develop a hypothesis about an observed phenomenon. You may remain in the school, or go out to the street, or the subway, or a museum, or a park, etc. But be safe!

Methods:

Keep all talking during the exerxise to an absolute minimum. You should only use a cell phone in case of emergency. Your focus needs to be what's around you.

Record the times (arrival and departure) and date of your visit and include them in your post. Include a location or at least an approximate location. Describe the temperature, humidity, precipitation - look it up online - and anything else you think might be descriptive of the day.

This should take 30 to 60 minutes.

Begin the following steps:

Initial observation, question, and hypotheses

1. Write a description.

  1. Observation: What is the observation or pattern that you noticed?

  2. Context: Where and when was this pattern noticed? Note any contextual variables that are important to consider (e.g., surrounding landscape, time of day, sounds, weather, other organisms, etc.). Describe not only what you saw, but what you heard (and smelled?)

2. Generate two testable hypotheses that can explain the observation/pattern. Each hypothesis should be written in sentence format in such a way that the observation and its explanation are clearly identifiable in the hypothesis. The two hypotheses should relate to the same observation.

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