- Ask a descriptive question that you can answer by counting or measuring things in 8 hours.
- Do not ask causal questions which ask why (but you will ask this kind of question in the discussion section of your report).
- For example:
- Descriptive question: Does saguaro density differ between a north- and south-facing slope?
- Causal question: Why is saguaro density greater on a south- vs. north-facing slope?
- Make sure the question is something that will interest you and for which you will have adequate time and transportation.
- The research question should be one sentence long with a question mark at the end.
- I suggest asking a question that has just one part. For example: do not ask "Does saguaro density and height differ between a north- and south-facing slope?" because you essentially will be doing two projects.
- Submit the research question to me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can ask almost any question relevant to the class, but here are some ideas you can use if you wish:
- Community Study: Compare plant or animal (birds are often easiest) communities to see how they differ in two
locations that differ in some stated way(s) that likely affect their populations.
Here are some possible questions:
- How does plant (or bird, etc.) density, richness, or diversity differ...
- at different elevations?
- in a wash compared
to a nearby area out of the wash?
- near a road versus
farther from road?
- between slopes with
different orientations to the sun (e.g., south-facing vs. north-facing
slope)? (especially plants)
- between an unplanted, urban desert setting and a natural desert setting (not plants)?
- between Sweetwater
Wetland and desert?
- Species Study: Study a particular species or group of species. Here are some possible questions:
- For different tree species, what percentage of the individual trees are infected with mistletoe?
- In which direction do cactus wrens prefer to build their nest hole?
- On which sides of
a saguaro do woodpeckers/flickers peck their nest cavities?
- In which
direction do southwest barrel cacti lean?
- What is the sex ratio
in jojoba plants?
- How does bird visitation rate
to a backyard bird feeder (or amount consumed) differ at different times of the
- How does bird visitation rate
to a backyard bird feeder (or amount consumed) differ for different types of food?
- How long does it take birds to return to a feeder after being frightened off?
- Does the density of one species affect the density of another species?
- How much time does an animal spend doing various activities (for example: how much time does the captive river otter at the desert museum spend in the water versus on land and does it vary with temperature)?
- Definitions of terms used above:
- Density: the number of individuals occurring in a given area (e.g.,
50 plants per 2000 square meters).
- considers # of individuals, not species.
- Richness: the number of different species (e.g., 3 tree species: velvet mesquite, catclaw acacia, blue paloverde).
- considers # of species, not individuals.
- Diversity: how individuals are spread among species.
- considers both # individuals and # species (does each species have about the same number of individuals or not?).
- For example: two places may have the same number of species and same number of total individuals but one place has mostly one kind of bird species and the other has an even number of all bird species, then the second one will be more diverse because if you were in that area for a brief amount of time then you most likely would see more kinds of birds.
- Bird visitation rate: a count of the number of times a bird lands at a feeder, regardless of whether it is the same bird multiple times or multiple separate birds (it is hard to tell most of the time).