Tag, you’re it!

Lars-the-guru: FIELD DIARY

    Tuesday 10/07/2012

Something is up with my new PhD student, Girl in Gumboots – she’s got a sparkle in her eye and a spring in her step. I know she’s thrilled with the brand new computer I provided but I suspect there’s more to it than her 64-bit version of Matlab. It’s pretty hard to tell because she gets so excited about everything geeky, but I’ve started to suspect that she’s having fun outside of the department. When she approached me this morning to ask for Thursday AND Friday off, I decided to find out what she’s up to.

Fortunately, I submitted a proposal when Girl in Gumboots first arrived in Scotland – there’s very little regional data on the foraging behaviour of ginger students relative to their environment so there’s a definite need for more research. A study undertaken in Cape Town showed this particular female exhibited a propensity for food markets, as well as cheese and wine farms, but the physical drivers here are very different.

Fig 1: Previous study into the foraging habits of Girl in Gumboots (Atkins and Kuyper, 2010)

The tag data will not only increase our understanding of how ginger students interact with their immediate physical environments, it will also ensure that my minion is not, in fact, attempting to have a life. Funding for said proposal came though just in time for this unique tagging opportunity. What can she possibly require time off for?

Based on previous anecdotal observations, I hypothesise that my student is going to spend most of the weekend at home, working tirelessly and going for the odd meander along the coastal path or the Lade Braes. However, now that she has a car and because foraging appears to take up a significant proportion of her time, I theorise that some of her Saturday morning will also be allotted to exploring farmers markets in the neighbouring villages.

The tag I’ll be using not only gives me a position from the Doppler shift (think of an ambulance driving past – the siren sounds higher in pitch when it’s driving towards you and then fades out as it drives away) received by the satellites, but it also has a wet/dry sensor and a pressure sensor. Thanks to these, I’ll be able to get some behavioural data to help me piece together more than just where she is in space and time.

The tag I’ll be deploying on Girl in Gumboots tomorrow will be similar to this one

Tagging planned for tomorrow at 13h00 sharp!

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4 thoughts on “Tag, you’re it!

  1. Dear Lars

    I am only familiar with medical research and as such Lauren “girl in gumboots” being a lovely human being (albeit the sad ginger no- soul populist movement) I trust you have received ethical approval for the study from St Andrews University – Bioethics division.

    Before embarking on a such an extensive prospective study I would suggest a retrospective analysis by using the popular social media tool facebook. lauren is an avid facebook fan and any foraging or excursions or indeed possible confounders such as “scottish highland lads” can readily be identified as Lauren is also indeed an avid photographer. Indeed her blog “girl in gumboots ” could also provide keen insight into her movements in Scotoland.

    I think this would give you a viable hypothesis by which to apply more vigorous research tools as highlighted by your intricate tracking device. That being said and knowing the particular subject in question I would suggest visual confirmation as she has been known to use decoys. Therefore if your tracking data suggests that lauren was stationary the whole weekend in the vicinity of her home and the laboratory, I would highly recommend using visual confirmation as she may have tampered with the tracking device or be manipulating the data.

    However I am excitied by your research and eagerly await preliminary results.

    best regards,

    Dr Samuel Isaacs

    1. Hi Samuel,

      While Girl in Gumboots is recovering….

      I am trained in everything related to tagging mammals albeit being a physicist. When I started to work with mammals I got the full load of training from making sure there are no ethical issues and that the study cannot be undertaken in any other way to resuscitate elephant seals(!). But training is not enough and I needed many years of tagging experience before I was ‘signed off’ to do such work by myself. And even more important, I feel confident after tagging hundreds of mammals.
      But you are right, approval from someone outside of your department is still needed. Before even submitting a research proposal, it requires formal approval by our Research Ethics Committee. Although increasing the paperwork, I do think that is a good measure.

      I like your proposal! I am not on facebook (am I an old fart???), so don’t know what kind of information is available there. Maybe investigating this information could be a nice undergrad project or even a Master thesis….

      Anyway, tagging went well and I will publish an update soon.

      Best wishes,
      Lars

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