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The nose knows: How tri-trophic interactions and natural history shape bird foraging behavior

This dataset is designed for first-year biology students, but can be altered for upper-level
students. After receiving sufficient background on the biology of King penguins, students must
make hypotheses regarding the penguins sensitivity to an odor known to be associated with the
primary productivity of the ocean. Students are given multiple data sets and need to analyze the
data using a variety of statistical tests. Students work in pairs to examine and analyze the data,
and then as a group generate conclusions to develop the larger picture. To give students a
chance to apply their knowledge beyond penguins, a second dataset with other seabirds is
introduced. Here students must contrast the results of seabirds to this odor against the
responses of King penguins. For successful completion of the assignment, students must
recognize how differences in the natural history between the two groups of birds might impact
their sensitivities towards the odor.
Associated files
Resource Group TIEE
Resource Group Link
Primary or BEN resource type
General Biology Core Concepts
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
General Biology Competencies
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords Foraging, trophic cascades, chemical ecology, behavioral ecology, Antarctic food webs
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Category
Pedagogical Use Description The activities that students will work through are data heavy and rich in quantitative skill development, and as such students may be initially put off by the amount of statistics that it involves. To that end, we have included specific instructions for the students and instructors on how to maneuver through the datasets with ease. Since the study is split into three activities, instructors should feel free to use as much or as little as is warranted given time constraints and the strengths of their students. The entire set of activities together can be run in a laboratory setting, while if desired the first two activities could be run in a class setting with the third activity assigned as homework. We have two different versions for activity 1. The activity that is included in the main document is at the level of a lower-division course. It involves using MS Excel and an available online statistical package (VassarStats) to analyze the data. The version of activity 1 that is found in the Appendix tackles the non-parametric analysis by hand, and we presume that this version is appropriate for upper-division students. Both versions end at the same point, so whether the faculty member chooses the version here or in the Appendix, they will follow the same overall path.
Aggregation Level
Full Name of Primary Author Kaitlin M. Bonner
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Department of Biology, St. John Fisher College
Primary Author email
Added By Id
  • educationintern
Submitter Email
Rights TIEE, Volume 13 2018 Kaitlin M. Bonner, Gregory B. Cunningham, and the Ecological
Society of America. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE) is a project of the
Committee on Diversity and Education of the Ecological Society of America (
Review type
Drought and Water Ecosystem Services Collection Off
Conservation Targets Under Global Change Collection Off
Big Data Collection Off
Editors Choice No
Resource Status
Date Of Record Submission 2018-07-16
Date Of Record Release 2019-04-15 08:03:31
Last Modified By Id
  • tmourad
Date Last Modified 2019-04-15 08:03:31
Release Flag Published

Resource Comments

Subject: Comment On: The nose knows: How tri-trophic interactions and natural history shape bird foraging behavior
Posted By: pyscheffler
Date Posted: 2019-05-20 13:50:57
I modified this module for use in a general education Introduction to Environmental Science course designed for non-majors with no math or science prerequisites. My modification focuses on Figure 1 from the material and helps students to understand how data are presented in graphical form. it can be accessed at: