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Field Book Project bird photograph activity 2013
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Field Book Project bird photograph activity 2013

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“Using Photographs in Scientific Observation” is designed to demonstrate the ways scientists utilize photography to document field observations. Students learn to recognize and compare photographs as …

“Using Photographs in Scientific Observation” is designed to demonstrate the ways scientists utilize photography to document field observations. Students learn to recognize and compare photographs as well as what characteristics a photograph must have to be a good source of observation information. (grades 4 – 6)

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  • 1. A Field Book Project Activity: Using Photographs in Scientific Observation Objectives: Students will learn about how ornithologists use photographs to study characteristics of bird development, how to recognize and compare these characteristics, and how to determine if a field photograph is a good source of observation information. Time: 25 – 35 minutes ‐ Introduction (suggested time 5 minutes) - Activity (suggest time 30 minutes) Skills: Observation, Basic knowledge of bird development, Compare and contrast Content Area: Science, Art Materials: - A pencil - Document provided Grade Level: Grades 4‐6 Other ideas: For older students: Students can try taking their own field photographs of birds in their neighborhood or school grounds. Please note that all Smithsonian Institution primary and secondary source materials can be used and reproduced for educational purposes without further permission.
  • 2. Introduction What is Field Photography? Field photographs, like field books, are primary sources that document the events leading up to and including the collection of specimens or observations during field research. Field photography is just one of many forms of field notes that, when used together, provide a scientist with a better understanding of wildlife and its environment. Photographs are particularly valuable because they can include information well beyond what the scientist was seeking to document. A photograph taken for the purpose of studying the appearance of a bird can also provide important information about vegetation and geology of an environment. Why do scientists use photography? ● ● ● VOCABULARY Field photography Field book Ornithologist Pelagic bird Photography can be a great tool to document plants and animals, especially as they grow into adulthood. Unlike a specimen, which can only document a plant or animal at the stage when it is collected, photographs allow a scientist to document the appearance of the same plant or animal over hours, days, or longer spans of time. This is helpful because many species change dramatically in appearance as they grow and age. How do scientists use them? A scientist takes photographs in the field for two primary reasons. Photographs are taken to document what a specimen looks like at the time it is collected. Some specimens, once processed, may change in appearance; for example, color may fade. Photographs help a scientist remember what the plant or animal looked like when it was alive. Scientists will also take a series of photographs, like the ones used in this activity, to document a plant or animal’s stages of development. Plumage ● ● ● How are photographs used in ornithology? In the case of the photographs in this lesson, ornithologists (scientists who specialize in birds) are using them to study and identify birds. They often focus on three characteristics that stay mostly the same during the bird’s development: shape of the beak, eyes, and feet. When ornithologists watch birds develop, they also focus on changes in appearance like: plumage [feathers] (color, patterns, and texture) as well as changes in anatomy (for example change in the length of a wing). Observing these types of details help a scientist not just determine what kind of bird, but their age. Challenges when shooting Field Photographs Photography is wonderful for recording how a bird looks at a moment in time. Unlike a scientific illustration, the image documents a specific bird without alteration. However, unlike an illustration, not all characteristics of the bird may be visible. The bird may not cooperate when the scientist is taking the picture. This can mean that a scientist needs to take a lot of pictures to be able to see all the characteristics they want to study. Historical Overview of the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program photographs The photographs in this activity were taken from the archive collection Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program 1961-1973. On this expedition, ornithologists were studying the development and movement of pelagic birds (birds that frequent coastal waters and open ocean). Scientists banded birds and then tracked their change of locations by recording where the bands were then collected. Staff also took photographs of birds in breeding colonies to document their development. Work was completed across islands in the Pacific during the 1960’s. Additional Resources: To learn more about this collection and the program, check out the following resources: Finding aid for collection: http://siarchives.si.edu/collections/siris_arc_216809?back=%2Fsearch%2Fsia_search_findingaids%2FRU000245
  • 3. Blog posts: http://nmnh.typepad.com/fieldbooks/2011/08/pobps.html http://nmnh.typepad.com/fieldbooks/2013/05/letters-from-the-home-office.html http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/it%E2%80%99s-sea-bird Images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/sets/72157627185361301/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/sets/72157634849704122/ For more images of birds: http://eol.org/
  • 4. Vocabulary Field photography: photographs taken in order to document natural history field work (observations of wildlife or collecting of specimens). Field book: materials in which a biologist records their observations during natural history study in the field. Field books usually contain information about specimens or observations of habitat and wildlife. Field books include a wide variety of formats including journals, specimen lists, photographs, drawings, recordings. These notes can take many forms depending on the information needs of the collector. Ornithologist: a scientist who specialized in the study of birds Pelagic bird: birds that primarily spend their time over the open ocean, not returning to land at night, and only coming to land to breed Plumage: general term for a bird’s feathers Sources: http://wordnet.princeton.edu/ http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/ecosys/ecology/ProtectedSpecies/SeaBirds/
  • 5. Instructions for students During these exercises, you’ll be learning to identify and compare characteristics studied by ornithologists. - 3 characteristics that remain mostly the same (beak, eyes, and feet) 3 characteristics that usually change (color, patterns, and texture of plumage) Observing these types of details help a scientist not just determine what kind of bird, but its age. Below are examples of birds that were observed and photographed during breeding periods on the islands of the Pacific in the 1960’s. Some of these birds look little like their parents. However, if you look closely, there are similarities. Example: Take a look at the two images below. These photographs show the same bird, but at different ages. These two photographs are very different, yet some characteristics are still much the same. Great Frigatebird chick 22 days old Grown Great Frigatebird (140 days) Take a look at the characteristics that usually stay the same (beak, eyes, and feet). 1. 2. 3. Eyes: The eyes (their shape and position) remain the same. Beak: The beak is long for both images of the young and adult bird. Feet: Did you notice that the feet are not visible in either picture? Sometimes field photographs simply don’t show all the characteristics a scientist would like study. Take a look at characteristics that often change on the bird (feathers, colors, patterns). 1: Feathers (plumage): the chick’s feathers are downy when young. The texture changes dramatically at the bird ages. 2. Colors: feathers are from pure white when young but become more than one color when an adult 3. Patterns: The chick has not pattern to its feathers, but the adult’s feathers have distinct patterns Could you make out all 6 characteristics in two photographs enough to compare them? This is one of the challenges of field photography. The following exercises show photographs of birds taken at different stages of growth. Each will help you learn to pick out specific differences and similarities that enable a scientist determine type of bird and age. Additionally, you’ll learn some of the characteristics that determine whether a photograph is a good field photograph.
  • 6. Exercise 1 Take a look at the next two photographs. Laysan Albatross 42 days old Grown Laysan albatross (The pictures above have been altered to make characteristics of birds easier to see.) 1. Can you see all 6 characteristics in the 2 pictures to compare them? Circle yes or no below for each one. Beak Eyes Feet (yes or no) (yes or no) (yes or no) Feather texture Feather colors Feather patterns (yes or no) (yes or no) (yes or no) 2. Take a look at the beak, eyes, and feet. Do these look the same or similar? Beak_________________________________________________________________________________ Eyes _________________________________________________________________________________ Feet _________________________________________________________________________________ 3. Look at the feathers, their colors, and patterns. How do these look different? Feathers (texture) ______________________________________________________________________ Color _________________________________________________________________________________ Pattern _______________________________________________________________________________ The way a photograph is taken can affect how much information you learn from it. When scientists take photographs like these, they will often take a lot, for this very reason.
  • 7. Exercise 2 Take a look at the next two photographs. SIA2013-07689. Blue-faced Booby #38, 42 days old SIA2011-1366. Adult Blue-faced boobies 1. Can you see all 6 characteristics in the 2 pictures to compare them? Circle yes or no below for each one. Beak Eyes Feet (yes or no) (yes or no) (yes or no) Feather texture Feather colors Feather patterns (yes or no) (yes or no) (yes or no) 2. Take a look at the beak, eyes, and feet. Do these look the same or similar? Beak _________________________________________________________________________________ Eyes _________________________________________________________________________________ Feet _________________________________________________________________________________ 3. Look at the feathers, their colors, and patterns. How do these look different? Feathers (texture) ______________________________________________________________________ Color _________________________________________________________________________________ Pattern _______________________________________________________________________________
  • 8. Exercise 3 Take a look at the photographs below. This series of photographs were taken of the same Great Frigatebird, taken every few days, over a period of 140 days. 9 days old 22 days old 35 days old 60 days old 75 days old 140 days old 1. Can you see the 6 characteristics in the 6 pictures to compare them? If you can see a characteristic in more than 3 of the 6 pictures, circle yes. Beak (yes or no) Feather texture (yes or no) Eyes (yes or no) Feather colors (yes or no) Feet (yes or no) Feather patterns (yes or no) 2. Take a look at the beak, eyes, and feet (if you can see them). Do these look the same or similar? Beak _________________________________________________________________________________ Eyes _________________________________________________________________________________ Feet _________________________________________________________________________________ 3. Look at the feathers, their colors, and patterns. How do these look different? Feathers (texture) ______________________________________________________________________ Color ________________________________________________________________________________ Pattern_______________________________________________________________________________