Taught by Charles Janson
The lab performed with the BIO 360 class (Behavioral Ecology) was intended to explore a virtually unstudied aspect of human behavioral ecology -- how we make spatial movement decisions.
Although there is a huge literature on how humans SHOULD behave, there is almost no descriptive literature. A series of 8 stations were set up, marked with wire surveyor's stakes, and mapped within the Ashley Schiff preserve. Students had to then visit all 8 stations after becoming acquainted with the terrain.
Following the first round of visits, performed at a leisurely pace, the students drew a map of their conception of the layout of the 8 stations. Then, a prize of 15 dollars was offered to the student that could visit all 8 stations the fastest. A consolation prize was offered to any students who visited the stations in the order that minimized overall distance traveled (according to their own map of the stations), even if they did not arrive faster than other students.
Small strips of surveyor's tape marked with the number of the station were placed on each wire marker; students had to visit each station to retrieve the tape token. The students’ starting times were staggered so they could not form “teams” in the field.
Following the exercise, the class returned to the lab and analyzed their results. The whole process took about two hours in the field with a further two hours spent in the lab (the discussion was continued into a second lab day).
About half of the class came close to the distance-minimizing solution (based on their own maps), although in many cases, the raw map they drew was so inaccurate that the actual sequence they used was not the best actual sequence.
Information on the BIO 360 use of the preserve courtesy of Charles Janson