Methods for Animal Behavior Research.
Article Type: Video recording review
Subject: Video recordings (Video recording reviews)
Author: Ray, Darrell L.
Pub Date: 10/01/2009
Publication: Name: The American Biology Teacher Publisher: National Association of Biology Teachers Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 National Association of Biology Teachers ISSN: 0002-7685
Issue: Date: Oct, 2009 Source Volume: 71 Source Issue: 8
Topic: NamedWork: Methods for Animal Behavior Research (Video recording)
Accession Number: 246348905
Full Text: Methods for Animal Behavior Research. Wildlife Conservation Society and Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Behavior Advisory Group.


The discipline of animal behavior provides a rich canvas for introducing undergraduate students to the world of biological research. But with their inexperience and naivete, these students may become discouraged by the daunting task of developing a full research project. Increasingly, formal research methods courses are being developed to teach these fundamental skills. The DVD, Methods for Animal Behavior Research, could easily become a valuable resource for instructors in such a course.

Methods for Animal Behavior Research is organized into six chapters. Each chapter is presented with narration and graphics overlaid against rapidly changing video backgrounds. This is perhaps one of the greatest issues with the product: The backgrounds are often distracting from the important information.

The DVD lacks a general introduction, and jumps directly into the topic of Bibliographic Research. The discussion of library research is thorough and focuses on the validity and strength of peer-reviewed primary research. The ancillary materials give ample information on where to look for information to support the project.

As the DVD moves into Chapter 2, the authors stress the need for developing answerable questions, and introduce the scientific process. The authors still use the old expression of a hypothesis being "an educated guess" rather than a potential explanation for a phenomenon based on prior observations and understanding. Additionally, the authors blur the lines between the hypothesis and experimental predictions.

Chapter 3, Developing Ethograms, is the first direct foray into animal behavior. This is a good chapter that describes the process of learning about the normal behavior patterns of a species, and reinforces the need for developing comprehensive catalogs of behavioral states and events prior to embarking on a research project.

Chapter 4, Experimental Design, is a very strong unit. It begins with a description of the differences between formal experiments and natural experiments. The differences between these two approaches are often misunderstood and the attention afforded this topic is an appropriate contribution. This chapter further addresses such topics as reducing experimental bias by maintaining adequate sample size, the differences between case studies and population studies, and the problems and limitations of multi-institution projects.

Chapter 5, Data Collection, is the strongest section of the entire DVD. Each segment of this chapter begins with a lecture and example-based introduction to one of the several accepted methods of behavioral data collection. The methods include ad libitum sampling, continuous sampling, all occurrences sampling, scan sampling and one-zero sampling, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Hands-on practice is provided using repeated video segments which makes this entire DVD a very useful and worthwhile project.

Chapter 6, Data Analysis, rounds out the DVD presentation with a succinct, if sketchy, introduction to statistics. This chapter should be viewed more as teaser for rank beginners or very brief refresher for more seasoned students, since the material covered in the 39-minute unit could easily fill one or more semesters of instruction in a biometry course. The chapter is useful however, in that it provides some insight into why statistical analysis is important and how to interpret significance values.

One of the strengths of this DVD is the weaving of repeated examples into each chapter. The authors repeatedly reference two sample projects involving spectacled bears and flamingos, and these provide common threads for viewers to follow throughout the presentation. In my opinion, the DVD could have been further strengthened by including some interviews with active investigators demonstrating their use of the methods being described.

This DVD could certainly be very useful for introducing undergraduate students to animal behavior research, or to ecological and biological research, in general, since many of the basic principles are not specific to the field of animal behavior. The content is sound and accurate, and it provides hands-on activity and experience. Since the DVD is so information-dense, plan on presenting it in short segments over several class periods to allow for discussion and questions. It would be difficult for students to assimilate the entire wealth of information in this DVD in one sitting.

Darrell L. Ray, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Biological Sciences

The University of Tennessee at Martin

Martin, TN 38238
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.