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