© 2013 by Henry M Streby

 

An important driver of progress in ecological research is constant effort to reduce our reliance on critical assumptions. As technology and field methods advance, many assumptions that were once necessarily unavoidable become directly testable. When designing a study to address one or two primary ecological questions, our team always looks for ways to simultaneously test those pesky assumptions that might otherwise reduce the utility of our results. It is not our intention to call into question the validity of previous work; rather we hope to test the reliability of common assumptions to effect progress in future research.

 

These are some of the common assumptions in songbird ecology research that we have been able to test during our work. Click on the "test it" button to see how each assumption stood up to testing in our study systems. Importantly, our categorizations of "busted" or "supported" apply to our study systems and these assumptions deserve more general testing. However, the large proportion of common assumptions we found to be invalid in our study systems represents cause for caution at the least.

Shade causes light... for some birds but not others... and at different times for different birds
Spot-mapping accurately delineates song-territory boundaries
Standard nest searching produces a representative sample of nest-site choice and productivity
Nestling body mass is a reliable measure of condition and future survival
Nest success can be determined from evidence at or near an empty nest
Radio transmitters do not affect survival or behavior in songbirds
Blowflies affect condition but not survival of juvenile songbirds
Force fledging nestling songbirds is a death sentence
Light-level geolocators do not affect annual survival of small songbirds