Our goal in this chapter is to provide guidance that will enhance the decisionmaking process throughout a given study. The often-stated axiom about “the best laid plans…” certainly applies to study design. The initial plan that any researcher, no matter how experienced, develops will undergo numerous changes throughout the duration of a study. As one’s experience with designing and implementing studies grows, he or she anticipates and resolves more and more major difficulties before they have an opportunity to impact the smooth progression of the study. The “feeling” one gains for what will and what will not work in the laboratory or especially the field is difficult to impart; there is truly no substitute for experience. However, by following a systematic path of steps when designing and implementing a given study, even the beginning student can avoid many of the most severe pitfalls associated with research.
Throughout this chapter, we provide examples from our own experiences. We will focus, however, on a “theme” example, which provides continuity and allows the reader to see how one can accomplish a multifaceted study. The goal of the theme study is development of strategies to reduce nest parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) on host species along the lower Colorado River (which forms the border of California and Arizona in the desert southwest of the United States). We provide a brief summary of the natural history of the cowbird in Box 8.1.
KeywordsHost Species Riparian Vegetation Parasitism Rate Nest Success Design Application
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