20559 Field Laboratory: The Social Life of the Arabian Babbler 1

Credits: 2 intermediate and 2 advanced credits in Life Sciences

Prerequisites: Selected Topics in Animal Behavior and Ecology. Students must also fulfill all English requirements and take bibliographic instruction in the Library.

Recommended: Evolution, Faunistics of Vertebrates in Israel, Introduction to Statistics and Probability for Science Students, Statistical Inference

The course is based on a reader edited by Roni Ostreiher.

The Arabian babbler is a songbird widespread along the Afro-Syrian Rift Valley and the only group-living songbird in Israel. All members of the group, including non-reproductive individuals, help to raise the young. This phenomenon of mutual help and caring for non-relatives seems to contradict the theory of evolution and many scholars have attempted to explain it. About 150 babblers living in about 28 groups in the Sheizaf Nature Reserve have been studied for almost 40 years. They are accustomed to the presence of humans and can be observed from short range. Almost all are banded with colored bands enabling identification of each individual.

The field laboratory enables students to perform short-term field research within the framework of a wide long-term research project. The laboratory, which combines individual and group work, has a number of objectives: gaining skills in research methods; planning, performing and reporting research; and increasing theoretical knowledge on the basis of personal fieldwork. In addition to fieldwork, the course also includes written materials, lectures and discussions.

After studying the material, students spend three concentrated days in Hazeva to become familiar with the area, learn fieldwork methods, select a topic, and plan their own research. Then, at home, they study what has been recently done worldwide on the topic they chose. They then spend four additional concentrated days in Hazeva to collect data,2 summarize and process them, and submit a field diary and a lab report in the format of a scientific paper (abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion and bibliography).

1This course can be included among the laboratory courses required for the degree.

2Students are expected to cover the cost of accommodations during the field trips.