Lab Info / lab project

2018 Lab Project

Dr. Thomas Lavelle Quay earned his Master's Degree at NC State in 1940 studying winter bird communites in Raleigh "The Ecological Succession of Winter Birds at Raleigh, North Carolina". He went on to earn the first Ph.D. awarded by the University and taught ornithology in the Department of Zoology for over 30 years.

We will continue Dr. Quay's studies of winter bird communities in 2018. This year the class will evaluate changes to winter bird communities on habitats similar to those studied by Dr. Quay. The primary goal of this exercise is to gain an appreciation for the process of planning, carrying out, and interpreting an avian field study. Working in three teams, we'll use the occupancy approach demonstrated in our first lab session to assess changes to Raleigh's winter bird communities and their habitats. Your goal as a team is to complete three replicate five minute counts on 20 points in your chosen habitat type within a three week sampling window between 23 February and 18 March.


1) Meet with your team to formulate an approach for your study, the distribution of effort, leadership and communication, and in consultaion with the other teams, decide on the location of your sample points. Submit a short (500 word) project proposal on Friday, 2 February summarizing your objectives and describing your study site (5 points).

2) On Friday, 16 February submit a draft methods section for your study outlining your study approach and proposed analyses (5 points).

  • Describe your study site and point locations in detail
  • Describe your sampling methods and your expected sample sizes in detail
  • Describe methods of data analysis you intend to use in detail

3) On Friday, 16 March submit draft introduction (5 points) and literature cited (5 points) sections of your study. This section should place your study in the context of related research and clearly explain your project objectives. All references should be fully documented in a literature cited section using the citation format from The Auk

4) On Friday, 6 April submit a draft results section for your study and a preliminary summary of your field data (10 points). Your data summary should include all data collected for your project to date in an organized format (e.g. Excel or Access). Provide summary statistics for data (e.g. naive species occupancy estimtes, # individual birds seen per point, total number of detections, covatiates measured e.g. # trees per plot).

5) On Friday 13 April submit a draft discussion/conclusion section for your study (5 points) as well as a short abstract (about 250 words) (5 points). Your discussion/conclusion should focus on the strengths and weaknesses of your approach and findings, and place your findings in the context of related studies.

6) On Wednesday, 25 April you will make a scientific presentation of your results. The presentation will be graded on:

Content - (30 points). This will include all of the sections previously submitted with revisions/changes as appropriate.

Title and Authors

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Literature cited

Presentation (20 points)

Presentation style (format, font, color choices, clarity and organization)

  • Oral summary and response to questions

Individual contribution (10 points) scored by team members

Grading Summary

Draft project proposal 5 points
Draft introduction and abstract 10 points
Draft methods 5 points
Draft results and data summary 10 points
Draft discussion and literature cited 10 points
Final content 40 points
Final presentation 20 points
Individual contribution 10 points

2018 Project Teams


Resources at your disposal

The Raleigh Christmas Bird Count data, collected since 1916, are available in a spread sheet format for analysis and comparison to your field data.

  1. We are available to meet with team members during the semester to provide assistance with field identification and suggestions on objectives and methods of data collection and analysis.
  2. Dr. Quay's thesis and study plot maps are online.
  3. Sample reports and presentations from previous classes are provided as examples below:
    Team 3 2005 Presentation Team 1 2007 Presentation Team 4 2007 Presentation
    Team 3 2005 Summary Team 1 2007 Summary Team 4 2007 Summary
    Team 3 2005 Data Team 1 2007 Data Team 4 2007 Data