Field survey training given on St. Eustatius

November 2016, St. Eustatius

We were asked to provide assistance with a field practicum for ten students of the Sustainable Island Management minor from Van Hall Larenstein School of Applied Sciences (the Netherlands). The students spent two weeks on St. Eustatius and learned a wide variety of practical skills, from handling birds to underwater surveys.

The group inside the crater of the Quill

The group inside the crater of the Quill

We took the group on a guided hike up the Quill slopes and into the lush crater. During the hike we explained about the various kinds of research and monitoring that occur on Statia, such as excluders to monitor the impact of roaming goats in the park, and a population assessment of the Bridled Quail-dove.

Along the way we showed them many different species of plants and how these are usually visited by just one pollinator, highlighting how fragile this relationship can be should anything negatively impact the pollinator. Under rocks, we found a large tarantula, a tiny Johnstone’s whistling frog, and a variety of insects, worms and snails.

 

Hannah Madden (founder of Ecological Professionals) during the "field survey design" session

Terrestrial ecologist Hannah Madden explains about point counts and transects during the “field survey design” session

A morning session on field survey design was given by Hannah Madden, founder of Ecological Professionals Foundation. She explained why systematic field surveys are required, and gave a few examples of the different types of survey. Survey bias, and how to avoid this, was discussed.

Madden then split the group into pairs and asked them to design their own survey for a species/taxonomic group of their choice. They all presented their efforts and everyone in class was encourage to ask questions and give feedback.

Finally, Madden showed the students an example of terrestrial bird monitoring surveys from Statia, as well as some preliminary analysis of the dataset.

The students worked in pairs to design a field survey on a chosen species/taxa

The students worked in pairs to design a field survey on a chosen species/taxa

The students took it in turns to present their field survey on a chosen species/taxa

They then took it in turns to present their field survey on a chosen species/taxa

The students took it in turns to present their field survey on a chosen species/taxa

This one focused on Statia’s native Lesser Antillean Iguana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the course of the week, the students were exposed to different field survey methods, including mist netting for terrestrial birds and searches for iguanas. They spent time with various researchers and learned how to safely extract, handle and measure animals for scientific research. For many, it was their first time getting close to wildlife but everyone enjoyed the experience and gained tremendous knowledge on how field surveys are conducted in practice.

 

Some students joined us on evening surveys to search for iguanas

Some accompanied us on evening surveys to search for iguanas

The students learned how to measure and handle iguanas

The students learned how to measure and handle iguanas

Extracting birds from mist nets and taking measurements was one component of the field course

Extracting birds from mist nets and taking measurements was one component of the field course

Students learned how to safely extract and measure Red-billed Tropicbirds at the Pilot Hill site

Students learned how to safely extract and measure Red-billed Tropicbirds at the Pilot Hill site

 

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