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 the Context

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How Can I Make Sense of the Birds I Observed?
Looking for Patterns in Bird Data!

For several years in the 1990s, the results for Kansas have been tabulated by Dr. Elmer Finck at Emporia State University. Dr. Finck supplied this summary of five years to give you an idea of trends in Kansas. Most notable has been the ever-increasing wintering populations of House Finches, which were not even in the top ten in 1988, when this survey began, but now are commonly among the top three for total numbers observed. Look at the following table to see how your own list compares:

Rank for each year 1991 - 1995

Species 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 Mean
House Sparrow 1 1 1 1 1 1
American Goldfinch 3 2 2 2 2 2.2
Dark-eyed Junco 2 5 3 5 4 3.8
European Starling 5 3 4 4 5 4.2
Northern Cardinal 4 4 6 6 6 5.2
House Finch 10 6 5 3 3 4.2
Black-Capped Chickadee 8 7 9 7 7 7.6
Blue Jay 7 9 8 8 8 8.0
American Tree Sparrow 6 8 - 10 10 -
Harris Sparrow 9 10 10 9 - -
Pine Siskin - - 7 - - -
Mourning Dove - - - - 9 -
Number of Counts 1118 925 912 787 700

Using Geographic Information Systems for Analysis

I would like to work with the Bird data in a map-based format.

Another way or working with what you saw would be to use geographic information system (GIS). GIS is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing things that exist and events that happen on earth. Using GIS can allow you to observe patterns over time. It has a critical geographic dimension when trying to answer questions. Where in the country are the birds, and have there been changes in where birds are found during the during the survey?, are examples of good GIS questions. GIS integrates common database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the unique visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps. These abilities distinguish GIS from other types of analysis.
Mapmaking and geographic analysis are not new, but a GIS performs these tasks better and faster than do the old manual methods. And, before GIS technology, only a few people had the skills necessary to use geographic information to help with decision making and problem solving. A GIS stores information about the world as a collection of thematic layers that can be linked together by geography. This simple but extremely powerful and versatile many real-world problems from tracking delivery vehicles, to recording details of planning applications, to modeling global atmospheric circulation. KanCRN provides some of this ability online, so you do not have to have the software on your site to begin looking for patterns. Follow the link below to begin looking at your data in a map-based form.

I would like to work with the data in a map-based format.

As you explore your data a number of questions will no doubt come to mind. Many of them begin with "Why".......which is good because it means you are ready to really beginning the explanatory part of science. This process only begins with your first question. The focus questions of our work so far are not research questions which direct the explanatory side of science, but instead, they are designed to help create a context, a deeper understanding, from which additional questions can emerge. The conclusions you make based on your work so far should answer the focus questions posed by the study but they are also a ticket to the explanatory part of science. As you reflect on your experience so far, we begin to have a models of how the "world" works. Good research questions allow us to test that model.

If you would like to continue your work, proceed to Guided Research, if you would like some guidance working out a research question and with the process of finding answers. If you have explored the data from the collaborative work or if you have done some work on birds on your own that you would like to share with the Pathfinder Science community, proceed to Publish My Research.

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