ClimateWatch

An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

The challenge of collecting quality data

Sometimes collecting quality data on the most common ClimateWatch species can be challenging as Monash University students, Tamblyn Thomason, Stephanie Merlicek and Bronwyn Jeynes discovered.

 

Monash Students Bronwyn Jeynes, Tamblyn Thomason & Stephanie Merlicek

 

The three students worked in a team monitoring the Australian Magpie for their Environmental Biology assignment. "We tried to record observations once per week over a 10 week period" said Stephanie. "I focused on spots around my home, local suburb and Monash Clayton campus."

 

Both Tamblyn and Bronwyn, who live on campus, collected data near the university. "At the start of semester we found a mating pair of magpies near the halls of residence" said Bronwyn. "Sadly after a couple of weeks the chick died and the parents disappeared."

 

"Since ClimateWatch is about monitoring phenology, we focused on recording breeding related observations," said Tamblyn, "However for the rest of the semester the best we could find were juvenile magpies, even when I visited my home town of Castlemaine."

 

Juvenile Australian Magpie by Rich Weatherill

Juvenile Australian Magpie by Rich Weatherill 

 

"I can recognise that ClimateWatch is an ambitious project. Finding enough breeding pairs to observe, means it will be hard to find enough data to tell a scientific story" said Stephanie. "But I have learned a lot about magpies and I can now easily pick the difference between males and females."

 

In addition to collecting data the second part of the assignment involved producing a communication piece combining academic research with the group's ClimateWatch data. "We produced a video," said Tamblyn. "By dividing it into sections we each had a part to produce."

 

“The ClimateWatch assignment provided students with an opportunity for independent investigation, monitoring and data collection, enhanced their teamwork skills and importantly, allowed for creativity in regard to their presentation” said Dr Gerry Rayner, Coordinator of 1st year Biology. “Students also peer-reviewed each others presentations, enabling them to self-evaluate, benchmark their work and obtain insights into where they could improve”.

 

"Overall I found it interesting, involving and collecting data for ClimateWatch increased my interest in biology," said Tamblyn who is planning to major in Genetics and Zoology.

 

"Its great to be involved in something with wider implications," concluded Bronwyn.

 

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