Experiments with wild animals in the field
Experiments in the field have become an important part of ecology. Only by
performing a manipulation, we can show a causal relationship. E.g. ecologist have
started to manipulate the number of offspring by switching offspring between nests to
unravel parental quality and the effect of brood size itself. Or we take blood samles to
show with DNA techniques the sex of the offspring or the relatedness with the nest
owners. Techniques like radio or satelite transmitters and data loggers help to study
the behaviour of animals in periods which are difficult to observe e.g. during
migration. But all these techniques can affect the well being of the animals.
There is a
specific law about doing experiments with animals. This law is mainly based on
laboratory research with rats and mice. But it is also applicable when we do
experiments in the field. However, experiments in the field are very different from
experiments in captivity. How do we quantify stress and disturbance and what are the
possibilities to minimize detrimental effects. Most field workers are very much
concerned about the well-being of their animal, but this is not enough to ensure an
optimal conduct during the experiments.
There is still an ongoing debate about incorporating field work in the code-of-practice
of animal experiments.
More information: Maarten Loonen