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Exploring the population dynamics of wintering bald eagles through long-term data

Author(s): Emily Prince1, Julie Beckstead2, Alexandra Lagasse2, Scott Robinson3

1. Lander University 2. Gonzaga University 3. Wildlife Biologist, Retired, Bureau of Land Management Coeur d'Alene Field Office Coeur d'Alene

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Description

How does a bald eagle population change over time at a winter migratory stopover and which factors influence its abundance?

This module was taught in two 50-minute sessions of an upper-level Ecology course. Students were assigned the introduction of the module to read the night before the first session, and were expected to come to class with a preliminary research proposal in mind. In the first class, students worked in pairs to decide which proposal they would use. In class, students used the open-ended approach to generate graphs and analyze data in order to test their hypothesis. Students were required to write a 2-page report explaining their methods and results.

This activity has two different aspects to the learning style:

  • Guided Approach: Students will generate questions abut bald eagle numbers influenced by weather and food availability.  Students will then use graphing software (JMP of Excel) to compile the data in a graphical form to answer their questions.
  • Open-Ended Approach: Students will generate their own hypothesis of interest from the larger bald eagle data set.  This approach is encouraged for upper division ecology students in conservation biology, wildlife management, or population ecology classes.

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