Research Techniques in Animal Ecology

Research Techniques in Animal Ecology: Controversies and Consequences

Mary C. Pearl
Luigi Boitani
Todd K. Fuller
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 2
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Research Techniques in Animal Ecology
    Book Description:

    The present biodiversity crisis is rife with opportunities to make important conservation decisions; however, the misuse or misapplication of the methods and techniques of animal ecology can have serious consequences for the survival of species. Still, there have been relatively few critical reviews of methodology in the field. This book provides an analysis of some of the most frequently used research techniques in animal ecology, identifying their limitations and misuses, as well as possible solutions to avoid such pitfalls. In the process, contributors to this volume present new perspectives on the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data.

    Research Techniques in Animal Ecology is an overarching account of central theoretical and methodological controversies in the field, rather than a handbook on the minutiae of techniques. The editors have forged comprehensive presentations of key topics in animal ecology, such as territory and home range estimates, habitation evaluation, population viability analysis, GIS mapping, and measuring the dynamics of societies. Striking a careful balance, each chapter begins by assessing the shortcomings and misapplications of the techniques in question, followed by a thorough review of the current literature, and concluding with possible solutions and suggested guidelines for more robust investigations.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50139-2
    Subjects: Zoology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. Authors
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xxv-xxxiv)
    Luigi Boitani and Todd K. Fuller
  7. Chapter 1 Hypothesis Testing in Ecology
    (pp. 1-14)
    Charles J. Krebs

    Ecologists apply scientific methods to solve ecological problems. This simple sentence contains more complexity than practical ecologists would like to admit. Consider the storm that greeted Robert H. Peters’s (1991) book A Critique for Ecology (e.g., Lawton 1991; McIntosh 1992). The message is that we might profit by examining this central thesis to ask “What should ecologists do?” Like all practical people, ecologists have little patience with the philosophy of science or with questions such as this. Although I appreciate this sentiment, I would point out that if ecologists had adopted classical scientific methods from the beginning, we would have...

  8. Chapter 2 A Critical Review of the Effects of Marking on the Biology of Vertebrates
    (pp. 15-64)
    Dennis L. Murray and Mark R. Fuller

    Vertebrates often are marked to facilitate identification of free-ranging individual animals or groups for studies of behavior, population biology, and physiology. Marked animals provided data for many of the topics discussed in this volume, including home range use, resource selection, social behavior, and population estimation. Markers can be classified into three general categories: mutilations, tags and bands, and radiotransmitters. The appropriate marking technique for a study depends on several considerations, including study objectives, target species, marker cost, marker efficacy, and marker effects on the animals (Day et al. 1980; Nietfeld et al. 1994).

    Studies using marked animals are characterized by...

  9. Chapter 3 Animal Home Ranges and Territories and Home Range Estimators
    (pp. 65-110)
    Roger A. Powell

    Most animals are not nomadic but live in fairly confined areas where they enact their day-to-day activities. Such areas are called home ranges.

    Burt (1943:351) provided the verbal definition of a mammal’s home range that is the foundation of the general concept used today: “that area traversed by the individual in its normal activities of food gathering, mating, and caring for young. Occasional sallies outside the area, perhaps exploratory in nature, should not be considered part of the home range.” This definition is clear conceptually, but it is vague on points that are important to quantifying animals’ home ranges. Burt...

  10. Chapter 4 Delusions in Habitat Evaluation: Measuring Use, Selection, and Importance
    (pp. 111-164)
    David L. Garshelis

    Management of wildlife populations, whether to support a harvest, conserve threatened species, or promote biodiversity, generally entails habitat management. Habitat management presupposes some understanding of species’ needs. To assess a species’ needs, researchers commonly study habitat use and, based on the results, infer selection and preference. Presumably, species should reproduce or survive better (i.e., their fitness should be higher) in habitats that they tend to prefer. Thus, once habitats can be ordered by their relative preference, they can be evaluated as to their relative importance in terms of fitness. Managers can then manipulate landscapes to contain more high-quality habitats and...

  11. Chapter 5 Investigating Food Habits of Terrestrial Vertebrates
    (pp. 165-190)
    John A. Litvaitis

    Why study food habits? Probably one of the most fundamental questions that ecologists attempt to answer is, “What resources does a particular species require to exist?” Indeed, the first principle among wildlife ecologists is to have a thorough understanding of the food, cover, and water requirements of an animal before initiating any effort to alter the factors that may be limiting it. Information on food habits is therefore an important introduction to the natural history of any species. This has been a justification for many studies of food habits of vertebrates (Martin et al. 1961) and is still a valid...

  12. Chapter 6 Detecting Stability and Causes of Change in Population Density
    (pp. 191-212)
    Joseph S. Elkinton

    Other chapters in this volume focus on various methods for quantifying density or other population qualities. Here I focus on the techniques ecologists use to extract the dynamics of population systems from such data. Population ecologists seek to explain why some animals are rare whereas others are common, as well as what accounts for observed changes in density. They have focused on two analytical questions: Are populations stabilized by negative feedback mechanisms, and what are the causes of density change? Here I examine some of the techniques that have been developed to answer these questions.

    The concept of a balance...

  13. Chapter 7 Monitoring Populations
    (pp. 213-252)
    James P. Gibbs

    Assessing changes in local populations is the key to understanding the temporal dynamics of animal populations, evaluating management effectiveness for harvested or endangered species, documenting compliance with regulatory requirements, and detecting incipient change. For these reasons, population monitoring plays a critical role in animal ecology and wildlife conservation. Changes in abundance are the typical focus, although changes in reproductive or survival rates that are the characteristics of individuals, or other population parameters, also are monitored. Consequently, many researchers and managers devote considerable effort and resources to population monitoring. In doing so, they generally assume that systematic surveys in different years...

  14. Chapter 8 Modeling Predator–Prey Dynamics
    (pp. 253-287)
    Mark S. Boyce

    Our gathering in Sicily from which contributions to this volume developed coincided with the continuing celebration of 400 years of modern science since Galileo Galilei (1564–1642). Although Galileo is most often remembered for his work in astronomy and physics, I suggest that his most fundamental contributions were to the roots of rational approaches to conducting science. An advocate of mathematical rationalism, Galileo made a case against the Aristotelian logicoverbal approach to science (Galilei 1638) and in 1623 insisted that the “Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics” (McMullin 1988). Backed by a rigorous mathematical basis for...

  15. Chapter 9 Population Viability Analysis: Data Requirements and Essential Analyses
    (pp. 288-331)
    Gary C. White

    The biological diversity of the earth is threatened by the burgeoning human population. To prevent extinctions of species, conservationists must manage many populations in isolated habitat parcels that are smaller than desirable. An example is maintaining large-bodied predator populations in isolated, limited-area nature reserves (Clark et al. 1996).

    A population has been defined as “a group of individuals of the same species occupying a defined area at the same time” (Hunter 1996:132). The viability of a population is the probability that the population will persist for some specified time. Two procedures are commonly used for evaluating the viability of a...

  16. Chapter 10 Measuring the Dynamics of Mammalian Societies: An Ecologist’s Guide to Ethological Methods
    (pp. 332-388)
    David W. Macdonald, Paul D. Stewart, Pavel Stopka and Nobuyuki Yamaguchi

    Today, biologists interpret behavior within a context fortified by theories of cognition, behavioral evolution, and games (Axelrod 1984; Findlay et al. 1989; Hemelrijk 1990; Hare 1992; de Waal 1992), and any or all of four processes may lead to cooperation: kin selection, reciprocity and byproduct mutualism, and even trait-group selection (reviewed by Dugatkin 1997). The processes that fashion societies are set within an ecological context (Macdonald 1983), and a species’ ecology can scarcely be interpreted without understanding its social life. As the specialties within whole-animal biology diversify and the once close-knit family of behavioral and ecological disciplines risks drifting apart,...

  17. Chapter 11 Modeling Species Distribution with GIS
    (pp. 389-434)
    Fabio Corsi, Jan de Leeuw and Andrew K. Skidmore

    From the variety of checklists, atlases, and field guides available around the world it is easy to understand that distribution ranges are pieces of information that are seldom absent in a comprehensive description of species. Their uses range from a better understanding of the species biology, to simple inventory assessment of a geographic region, to the definition of specific management actions. In the latter case, knowledge of the area in which a species occurs is fundamental for the implementation of adequate conservation strategies. Conservation is concerned mostly with fragmentation or reduction of the distribution as an indication of population viability...

  18. Index
    (pp. 435-442)