Lab Info / lab project

2016 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 2016, and this year the entire class will collaborate on a single project. The 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 examine the effects of playbacks and other covariates on occupancy estimates for wintering forest bird species in Raleigh. Our goal is to complete three replicate five minute counts on 60 points in forested habitats of Schenck Forest and Umstead State Park. In coordination with the other teams, each team will be responsible for surveying 20 points three times within a three week sampling window between 21 February and 13 March. All teams will use an Eastern Screech Owl playback on a subset of their points the assess the effects of playbacks on species occupancy estimates. In addition, each team will collect data on a second covariate (measured at all 60 points) for analysis. As of 19 February, we have provided some more specific guidelines to help you in designing your study.


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. Decide on the covariate you will measure in addition to playback. Submit a short (500 word) project proposal on Friday, 5 February summarizing your objectives and describing your study site (5 points).

2) On Friday, 12 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 26 February 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, 1 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 8 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 Friday, 22 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

2016 Project Teams

Colleen Grant Megan King Frankie Fann
Ana Rivera--Burgos Amber Bledsoe Sarah Denoble
Kathryn Nilsson Mary Osborn Franco Gigliotti
Lina Aita Kristen Lewey Madi McDiarmid
Emily Bruff April Boggs Lanette Phillips
Khai Button Jens Kosch Lucas Bobay

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