san diego zoo
Field Research Project/Paper
Assignment: Primate Observation and Analysis
Take a trip to a local zoo. The San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, or the San Diego Wild Animal Park are best. The San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park are more expensive, but have the best selection of non-human primates and the best habitats. The Santa Ana Zoo is the closest, and cheapest, but its selection of primates, and quality of its habitats are limited. Look for discount coupons, online deals, and student discounts. Save your zoo admission receipt to turn in with your written assignment. Try to go to the zoo in the morning or late afternoon (mornings are best), and if possible on a weekday.
Bring: A lawn chair (optional), note pad or video camera, pen/pencil, still camera (optional), and a date or friend (optional).
Field Assignment: Observe a single non-human primate species for one hour, take notes
or shoot video. Observe a family or social group of humans in their natural habitat for 30 minutes; a public eating area (restaurant etc.), bar, or recreational setting is excellent.
At the Zoo: Once you arrive at the zoo you should briefly tour the various primate exhibits to decide which species of non-human primate you would like to observe; I would highly suggest that you choose a species of ape.
Note the species common name, taxonomic classification, and any other pertinent information supplied by the zoo, zookeepers, primate “groupies,” or other sources of information. Begin your observation by attempting to recognize individuals in the group/enclosure. This may be obvious for some primates and not so obvious for others. Examine the face and body of each individual for several minutes paying attention to the various features that distinguish it from other members of the group. For example, there will be differences in body size (i.e. sexual dimorphism), in coat/fur (length or color in different regions of the body), age, anatomy, or sex. You may consider giving an identifying name to these individuals of your own creation, or if “ape groupies” are available ask them for individual names.
Next, observe the behaviors that individuals or groups of individuals engage in, active individuals are best. The purpose of this is to learn how to categorize the behavior(s) you observe and construct definitions to describe what these behaviors are and why they might occur. Be aware that people tend to see what they want to see and ignore what they may perceive as unimportant. Consider this and try your utmost to avoid any personal biases you may have. Behaviors you should look for may include, but are not limited to: types of locomotion, resting positions, sleeping positions/postures, feeding activities, aggression, play, grooming, sexual acts, vocalizations, facial expressions, gestures, display, indications of dominance hierarchy, etc. Speculate why these actions might be performed. Can correlations be made to human behavior? Try to note when and where behaviors occur in relation to other members of the troop and/or zoo patrons. Try to recognize the identifying features of each behavior, and what might cause it to occur.
Human Observation: The technique for human observation is the same as above, but try to be inconspicuous, these primates are very temperamental and they will alter their behavior if they know you are watching them. Find a social or family group, or a couple, and try to choose subjects that remain more or less stationary during your observation. A family of tourists at the zoo with young children, a social group at a bar, coffee house or the beach, your own family, or a couple out together might be ideal. Do not communicate with these primates while you are observing them.
Write: A 6-8 page, typed, double-spaced, twelve-point, Times New Roman font, essay about your fieldwork. In your essay note the species name and address the following questions:
1. What were your initial thoughts regarding having to go to the zoo?
2. What is the taxonomic classification of the non-human primate species you observed?
What does this indicate about its evolutionary relationships to other primates and humans?
Examples: Hominoid, Anthropoid, Old World Anthropoid. How is this classification reflected in the physical or behavioral characteristics of the primate you observed?
3. Where are these primate species found in the world (continent/s, environment)?
4. What is the conservation status of these primate species today?
5. Describe the physical characteristics of the primate species you observed? (tail, no tail, etc.)
Are these species of primate sexually dimorphic?
How was this sexual dimorphism manifested (physical characteristics)?
How does this relate to the normal social structure of this species in the wild? Was this the type of social structure that you observed at the zoo (or other location)? If not, why not (why do think not)?
6. Did you discover any similar behaviors that the humans and the non-human primate species your observed performed?
7. Did you see any behaviors that indicative of a social dominance hierarchy?
If so, how was this manifested?
8. What kinds of behaviors distinguish, or make one or both species unique?
9. Did the primates do anything that surprised you?
10. Why do you think that scientists study non-human primates to better understand humans?
11. What was your overall impression of primates after doing your field-work?
12. Include analysis from your course material (lectures, Annual Editions Exercises, Videos, Textbook).
References: Do not copy and paste from internet or other sources. Do not plagiarize in any way. If you cite/use additional sources in your paper, besides course lectures, include a reference page. Any format you are familiar with (MLA, APA, AAA, etc.) are acceptable.
Turn In: A PAPER COPY of your paper, and UPLOAD A COPY TO BLACKBOARD, along with your field notes, or video photographs (optional), and your ZOO TICKET stub or receipt (or a copy of your ticket).
Book Analysis Instructions (Optional: Instead of Zoo Project)
(To be completed only if a student is unable to get to the zoo.)
Write: A six to eight page, typed, double-spaced, Times New Roman, twelve-point font, book analysis.
Analysis: Your book report should be more of an analysis than a review. Place minimal emphasis on the narrative of the story; what happened. Instead emphasize conceptual connections between the book and the course. Identify concepts that you recognize in the book and explain why they are relevant or how they apply.
Books: See your instructor for book selections.
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