Humboldt State University

Matt Johnson, Ph.D.

707 826 3218

Wildlife 311 - Class Research Project

Wildlife Techniques & Scientific Method

The class research project is the most important element in the Techniques course.  While working cooperatively on this project, students learn:

  • hypothesis testing
  • study design
  • the importance of pilot data
  • survey and sampling techniques
  • data management
  • statistical analyses (tests, chi-squared tests, and Spearman rank correlation tests)
  • scientific writing skills
  • figure/table construction
  • poster and/or web presentation of results.

Each semester, the class cooperatively designs a project and collects the data. It's a truckload of work for both the students and the instructors, but it is also very rewarding. Students are given increasing freedom on the project over the course of the semester, which culminates with each student writing a thorough scientific manuscript. Some students choose to continue this work by creating a poster and/or web page that presents their results to a broad public audience.

The allure of this approach is that it simultaneously (a) enables each class to tackle a local research question of management interest, (b) teaches the research tools necessary for future wildlife courses and jobs, (c) affords each class the opportunity to prepare a public document for Arcata that "bridges the the gap" between science and the community, and allows successive classes to extend the research of their predecessors.

Class Projects from Previous Semesters

Spring 2000
Why does the number of birds at Klopp Lake vary from hour to hour?See poster »
Spring 2001
What is the effect of human activity on birds at Klopp Lake?See poster »
Fall 2001
Do river otters encounter birds at the Arcata Marsh?See poster »
Spring 2002
What factors make cover objects useful microhabitats for Plethodontid salamanders in the Arcata Community Forest? (Sorry, no web material available; lecture presented May 2002)
Fall 2002
Which of the wetlands at the Arcata Marsh attract most wetland birds? & Which bird types favor which wetland type?See poster »
Spring 2003
What factors make influence duck nest predation at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary?See poster » This project resulted in a published paper with student authors!
Fall 2003
River otters foraging opportunities at a coastal wetland.See poster »
Spring 2004
Does grazing influence White-tailed Kites & other raptors?See poster »
Fall 2004
Does grazing affect Short-eared Owls?See poster »
Spring 2006
Will human activity on levee trails enhance carnivore activity? See poster »
Fall 2006
Evaluation of “PVC traps” for studies of local treefrogs.This project resulted in a published paper with student authors!
Fall 2007
Monitoring use of intact and restored riparian habitat by Pacific treefrogs.

Our work in this course focuses on the fantastic local natural habitats available to us, specifically the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary and the Arcata Community Forest. Each semester we focus on a new question.