Water, data, everywhere!
Want to create your own scientific project report? If you have collected lots of frog call recordings, you can probably have a go at collating your own WetMAP-style report! Follow the steps below to analyse your data.
1. Form a question or hypothesis. Good science always starts with a question you are trying to answer, or a hypothesis for which you are trying to find evidence. The more specific your question, the easier your analysis will be. A good question for a WetMAP-style study might be “Do more frog species call in my dam in spring?”
2. Have you got enough data? Generally speaking, the more data you’ve got the better. To find out if more frog species call in the spring, you’ll need repeated sampling, e.g. multiple recordings at the same location from different times of the year. The more data you have, the clearer your answer is likely to be.
3. Enter your data. If you’re computer-savvy, Microsoft Excel is an excellent place to start with statistics. But you don’t need to get fancy – good old-fashioned pencil and paper work well too! Make a table to enter your data into, like the one below.
4. Analyse your data. Straight away we can see by looking at the very basic descriptive statistics (e.g. total numbers, averages) that there is little difference in our dam between spring, summer and autumn, but that fewer species call from our dam in the winter. We can create a graph (either in a program like Excel or just on paper) to help visualise our results too (Fig 1).
5. We should also perform some inferential statistical tests to test for significance. Tests for statistical significance take into account things like the sample size, the differences between the descriptive statistics (and whether that’s likely to be true, based on how big those differences are) and the variation in the data. There’s not really space in one newsletter to explain all those wonderful statistical possibilities, but if you search the internet for “Inferential Statistics” there are lots of resources and ways to learn more.
6. Form a theory, reform your hypothesis, or ask another question. One of the best (and worst!) things about science is that one question always leads to more questions! In our example we could just leave it at what we have so far – the frogs in my dam call less in winter. Or we could ask more questions – maybe trying to find out why (“Do frogs call more when it is warm?”; “Do frogs call more when it is raining?) or maybe asking a similar question (“Do more frog species call in the warmer months?”). We could also just keep collecting data and see if we get any clearer patterns the more recordings we collect. But we probably have enough here to form a theory: “No more species of frogs call during the spring than the summer or autumn, but fewer species call in the winter”.
7. Write your report using all that you have found – make sure you include your question or hypothesis, your methods of data collection and analysis, your results and your theory and conclusions. Feel free to share them with us (firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @frogscalling or #frogscalling)! We’d love to know what you’ve found.