Next time you read a study involving behavioral observations of animals in the wild, pay close attention to the part of the methods that actually mention those observations. I use “mentions” because I’m willing to bet that you’ll find just one or a few sentences about the process. “We conducted 20 minute focal observations of X number of individuals.” Don’t let these one-liners mislead you. Collecting this type of data is hard work!
We are busy collecting data on female Anolis gundlachi lizards here in Puerto Rico, and our methods include lots of behavioral observations. Just what does a budding behavioral ecologist need in order to tap into the lives of free-living animals? I’ve already talked a little about this—a comfortable rock is a must. Pencil and paper, a (good!) pair of binoculars, and a fair bit of patience will get you well on your way. But our team is carrying just a little extra. Just check out the contents of Deborah’s field pack!
Once we’re loaded up with everything we need in order to find, watch, and record, we hike to our plots and settle in for a busy day. Deborah and Karen are breaking in our slick new binoculars—turns out this work is more fun when you can actually see the lizards!