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Leaf cutter ant foraging


This module introduces students to leaf-cutter ants in the rainforests of Panama. Students derive their own research hypotheses regarding ant foraging or allometric scaling relationships. As written, the modules channel students to collect data that is amenable to analysis by linear regression.

This module was created as a way to give students a realistic, open-inquiry research experience, even when lab or field research is not possible. Students are introduced to leaf-cutter ants and how they forage, provided with images and videos, and are asked to develop a hypothesis, plan a study, collect real primary data, and analyze the data. Minimally the experience can take a couple of hours of class time and some report writing as homework. On the other end, full research papers or posters could be the product of a more rigorous research experience.

Potential Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to generate meaningful scientific hypotheses given a context for study.
  • Students will use image analysis software to generate data from an image set.
  • Students will be able to conduct and interpret linear regression analyses (including R2, p-values, hypothesis testing, slopes/y-intercepts), given data they've collected.
  • Students will write a results section in typical scientific literature format.

  • Students will be able to construct and interpret frequency histograms.
  • Students will apply programming concepts to automate a series of procedures.
  • Students will be able to conduct appropriate statistical analysis for a categorical independent and numerical dependent variable.