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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Stephen D West
ESRM 351
Seattle Campus

Wildlife Research Techniques

Scientific approaches to the field study of wildlife populations and habitat, including species identification and natural history, experimental design, and report writing. Emphasis on direct experience with current field techniques used in the study of vertebrate populations and habitat. Prerequisite: either BIOL 162, BIOL 180, ESRM 162, or ESRM 350; recommended: Q SCI 381; ESRM 304. Offered: Sp.

Class description

This course is a hands-on survey of basic scientific approaches and field techniques commonly used in animal ecology. The class centers on 10 days in the field (Olympic peninsula, San Juan Island, Columbia Basin, and eastern Cascade Mountains). Students will have direct experience with methods for identifying and sampling the abundance of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Basic habitat measurements will be explained and practiced. Principles of experimental design allowing inference from field sampling will be discussed and practiced. Scientific writing and the processes involved in contributing to the scientific literature will be described.

Student learning goals

Students will gain an appreciation for the diversity of vertebrate species and habitats in the Pacific Northwest, and be able to identify and measure the abundance of commonly encountered amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Students will be familiar with commonly used techniques for measuring habitats and will be able to identify important indicator plants.

Students will work in teams to ask testable questions, design appropriate sampling and analytical approaches, conduct field sampling, report results, and discuss conclusions. Students will recognize a poorly-designed sampling scheme and offer ways to correct its faults.

Students will be apprised of issues of human health involving wild animals and of the laws and regulations governing the use of animals in research.

Students will understand the basic processes involved in creating the scientific literature.

General method of instruction

Each week there are two lectures with either a half-day lab on Fridays or a 2 or 3-day weekend field trip. Lectures describe the techniques that are practiced on the field trips. Students will work in teams on the field trips to ask testable questions, design and conduct appropriate sampling, analyze and report results, and discuss conclusions. Field work is recorded in a specified field notebook format.

Recommended preparation

Students should have an abiding interest in field ecology (we go rain or shine), have taken an introductory ecology course, and have taken an introductory statistics course (e.g., QSCI 381 or equivalent) or be willing to do some statistical catch-up on the side.

Class assignments and grading

Students are responsible for understanding the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches for sampling vertebrate abundance, for recognizing a poorly designed field sampling protocol, and for maintaining a record of the field trips and the class exercises in a field notebook.

Grades are assigned on point totals accumulated over the quarter: an in-class midterm exam = 100 points; field notebook quality = 60 points; a field bird exam (ID of ~60 species by sight or call) = 40 points; a habitat measurement exam (including ID of ~50 indicator plant species) = 40 points; an in-class final exam = 120 points.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Stephen D West
Date: 02/17/2011