Data Collection in the Wet Tropics

Posted: April 23, 2012

During the last two weeks, students were busily engaged in their Directed Research projects. In the first week they had to complete their data collection. This meant for many to be out in the field working along steep slopes in rain and mist as the weather had deteriorated. It also saw students in thick rainforest establishing transects while trying to avoid being entangled in a spiky climbing palm, the so-called “Wait-a-while”.

Other students retrieved their data during long hours in the laboratory; some could work only after sunset as their subjects were nocturnal animals. And some students had to arrange interviews with people either by phone or during visits throughout the Tablelands. Despite the weather and all other hardships, the data must be got! No wonder that this part of the research project makes every student appreciate the obtained data.

Once the data were in, they had to be organized in Excel spreadsheets for the statistical analyses. This was often a time-consuming procedure, but worthwhile to be able to see what data can actually reveal. With the help of the faculty, students “made the data speak” and often very surprising results emerged. Some were expected, others were contradictory to any expectations.

This is the next challenge for the students: trying to explain the results. By the end of the last week students went back to the literature to compare their results with the results of other, similar studies. Students try now to interpret their results and put their results into the broader scientific picture. This is a challenge, but it is the final essence of all the efforts they have put into their projects so far.