Lab Info / zoo project

Zoo Assignment

Zoo projects will involve an observational study of one or more bird species using "focal animal sampling." The project is worth 25 extra credit points and will be due one week after the trip to the North Carolina Zoo. The write-up should be written in scientific paper format with an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and literature cited sections. The paper is to be a maximum of 5 pages (including tables and figures, but excluding raw data sheets).

Your study should be based on behavioral observations collected over about a two hour period. After choosing your study subject, spend about a half an hour to define your objectives and the behaviors you are going to measure. Possible comparisons would include terrestrial vs. aquatic birds, large vs. small birds, or raptors vs. nectivores. You are free to team up with a partner if you wish. You might, for example, decide to compare the activity budgets of two species in the alcid exhibit. Behaviors you might measure would include: swimming under water, swimming on the surface, preening, feeding, resting, sleeping, walking, vocalizing, etc. You will want to quantify the bird's behavior in a systematic way so you can quantify differences in behavioral frequencies. By picking one or several focal animals and recording their behavior every 30 or 60 seconds for an hour or more you will begin to generate the data necessary to make these comparisons.


  1. An old but useful Handout on Methods of Observational Research in a Zoo Setting.
  2. Examples of project write-ups from previous classes.
  3. A sample Data Sheet for recording behavioral observations.
  4. A recent Study that used scan sampling to quantify Coot behavior.
  5. The North Carolina Zoo
  7. North Carolina Zoo Species List