Monthly Archives: October 2016

Group assignment on Animal Welfare


Working together… or just in close proximity of one another?

As an earlier post has mentioned, this week has revolved around animal welfare – which has included not only individual projects where we must formulate our own opinions, but also group assignments where we’ve created in-depth scenarios to fill in and evaluate applications to ethical committees – which we both presented and defended our application to a board consisting of 3 people to represent politicians, lawyers and representatives from organisations working with the ethical treatment of animals. Subsequently, we also commented on another groups work. Practice makes perfect!

My group worked with the greysided vole, which in Sweden has been in stark decline since the 1970’s – which has been connected to habitat fragmentation. But the real question is: did my groups work stand up to the trial by our peers?

The quest for the answer goes on……!

What does Animal Welfare mean to you?


Free as a bird!

This week has handled a lot of interesting ethical questions regarding animal welfare – and rightly so! As managers or researchers frequently deal with live animals it becomes exceptionally important that we do not only understand what national or international law states and the conceptual origin of such, but perhaps most importantly – that we also formulate our own opinion which will guide us throughout our careers.

A classical question wherein it has been found that students seem to in about equal parts prefer both alternatives: “Is it, better that a large number of birds each receive one moderately painful procedure – or that one bird receives many procedures?”

Perhaps as a result of that schism, the swedish animal welfare law already states that it must always be the cost for the individual animal which is to be considered!

We’ve also covered how to systematize the development of ethical guidelines. One way to do it may be using the 3 R’s:

Replace – Is it possible to conduct this study without the use of research animals?

Reduce – Is it possible to use fewer animals to a satisfactory result?

Refine – Is it possible to change the way we handle the animal? Can we improve the procedure or perhaps even create simulations?




Running up towards exams

All right, we now have about 2 weeks left until our exam and then a further couple of days until we present our individual projects, and the steam pressure is about to overclock!

Meanwhile the temperature feels like it has dropped to less than 10 °C all day around, which really has started marked we are in the midst of autumn – trees are now getting ready for the winter, and we’re getting showered in birch leaves!

We’re also starting to see more Bohemian waxwings turn up – absolutely beautiful bird.



Juggling two large deadlines simultaneously certainly does require you to try to keep your cool, but I think we’ll manage.

Reading through earlier research on the willow ptarmigan (for my individual project) feels sort of like this foraging Eurasian nuthatch – you can’t see the tastiest insects through all the bark, but with a bit of luck listening in you’ll find they’ll tell you where they are themselves!


And every now and again – you have to treat yourself!


Day out by the lake


Maybe it’s my day today! 

I guess one of the things I’ll have to get used to as an aspiring amateur wildlife photographer is just never knowing if I’ll see anything – or if I’ll be quick enough to capture the moment! This week I went out for a couple of hours hoping to get some great pictures of some passerines which I’ve seen flapping around one of the trails I frequent – but after following the chirps and quirks around the forest for what seemed like the better part of a couple of hours, I’d given up and turned homewards.

And just as fate had it, there they were! Which was when I suddenly heard this weird, knocking noise coming from behind me – where I found this little fellow putting on some of those gains before winter!


Found the red squirrel chomping down his fika.



Dropped the afternoon snack. Not a big fan of the five-second-rule?



Not the hero Umeå deserves, but the hero it needs!

Crowd-Sourcing Data



Don’t you just get the idea sometimes that you just can’t find any chanterelles wherever you look and all you want to do is give up in pure frustration?

Well, I guess the world of researchers isn’t too far flung after all – what can happen is that some data is way too difficult to find by yourself (because it’s too expensive, time-consuming, too difficult to collect…), which is where you can come in!


It’s easier working together! 

A lot of research is actually dependent upon voluntary effort in order to find or treat enough data – whether this may be counting penguins in a picture, analyzing the development of tropical storms or even looking for anomalies in data returning from the Kepler spacecraft in order to look for new planets! (All of which I have been a part of – counting penguins was the most fun!)

If that sounds like something you’d like to try, you can help some researchers through a citizen science web portal called the Zooniverse! Who knows, you might even learn something – and all you have to do is have fun!



Distance Sampling Field Exercise


Look carefully! Picture of the day: A Great Tit (?), ISO 100, 196 mm, f/5.6, 1/160.

Earlier this week we had a field exercise in distance sampling – really makes you think about how difficult it can be to spot what you’re looking for! Really so if you’re looking for something that’s (kind-of) camouflaged, small, and you don’t really know where it’s hiding!

To illustrate the problem and the importance of proper detection functions (so we can correct for the amount of counts that we miss, depending on how hard they are to see at different distances), faculty had put up a fun little exercise where we would walk along a road (our “transect”), and try to find as many of the wooden grill-sticks they had placed out as possible (total hidden around 28).

Finding 22, my group didn’t quite get there, sticks are remarkably difficult to spot when they’re behind brushes and trees – but our estimate of the total landed somewhere between 26- 30, which is pretty close!