Seven Cam-Testable Questions You Identified in Sorting Activity

By Miyoko Chu, June 19, 2018

Thanks to 62 participants who helped sort 12 questions from the Wonder Board, we have now identified 7 questions that most think can be identified using cam footage. For a summary of results, see the graph below.

Red bars show the percentage of participants who believe the question can be investigated using footage from the cams; purple bars show the percentage who believe the question cannot be answered with the cams. Special thanks to the 62 participants who sorted these questions.

As you can see, some questions seemed clearly testable using the cams, such as quantifying the amount of time that nestlings spend doing different activities. Others could be investigated if we can find ways to collect supplementary data. For example, we’d be able to look into whether incubation time is related to temperature if we install a thermometer in or near the nest.

There were five questions that participants generally felt could not be investigated using the cams. For example, although we could hypothetically compare activities of nestlings between urban and rural habitats, we don’t have cams running in enough locations to make that comparison now–although we imagine this could be possible in the future, especially if we can collaborate with other cam hosts.

One of these five questions was a great example of a question that could be investigated if framed in a different way. Using cam footage, we wouldn’t be able to answer the question, “Why do hawks bring green boughs to the nest?” To do so, we’d have to look into factors such as whether the boughs reduce pests around the nest or provide insulation. Although it would be possible to set up a field study to measure parasites at nests with and without green boughs, or estimate the thermal effect, doing so would be beyond the scope of what we can achieve with the cams. However, we could refine the question to something like “What materials do hawks bring to the nest, and does this change across the nesting season?” That could help provide clues about what they might be used for, and stimulate field studies for further investigation.

Most participants rated the sorting activity as “useful” or very useful” for helping us narrow down a list of questions that could be investigated using the cams. Now with a list of 7 testable questions in hand, we can explore each one in more depth. We began such a discussion at our first live Q&A session. To watch the session or read a summary, see our next blog post, “Live from the Bird Cams Lab: Our First Q&A Session.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the sorting. Any questions or comments about the results? Please leave a comment in the forum below.