SELECTING A PROJECT FOR
During the first week of the class field trip, we will be conducting a class (group) project as we drive through the Rocky Mountains, virtually from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. During this time, you will see lots of mountain habitats, and will have this time to think of questions about mountain biology that interest you. When we get to the hunting lodge in Wyoming, you will have three days to conduct the study that you have designed. A wide range of mountain habitats will be available at/near this site, and you may need to collect data at several of these to answer your research question. The questions addressed in these studies will take the basic form of:
"How does . . [habitat parameter] . . effect the . . [ecological measurement] . . in . . [taxa]?"
where the "habitat parameter" is elevation, slope, aspect, etc. of the habitats being compared. These could also be related to fire or human impact such as logging, road constructions, etc.
Ecological questions (and the measurements made to address them) can be divided into several categories, each with distinct but overlapping questions and methods. To narrow down the possible options for projects, one might first start by asking oneself which category is most interesting. Some of these subcategories and measurements that might vary b/w mountain sites in each are:
While this is another area of ecology, with interesting questions to be addressed, most are not practical for this class. They include the physiological adaptations to living in a thinner atmosphere, at a colder temperature, and in a highly variable environment.
In addition to selecting a habitat parameter and an ecological measurement to make, one must also select a species or species-group (guild). Keeping in mind that you will repeat the same measurement multiple times at different sites near the hunting lodge, the species or species-group must be common at each location. Make sure to select a species/group that is of personal interest too. Possible taxa that should be available at the different sites include:
mosquitos & flies
butterflies & moths
centipedes & millipedes
[amphibians & reptiles are not likely to be encountered]
If you have a favorite taxa, which you hope to use in your individual project, consider what equipment might be needed to obtain/locate these at our mountain sites. We will try to bring a wide range of field equipment, but let me know if there is something special that we should include.