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Essay for Avian Systems course
The essay will be 5-10 pages submitted in electronic format before the exam period. You are free to choose a topic related to your own research, or interest, or hopefully both.
Types of the essay
1) Novel hypothesis
Preferably you get hooked on an unsolved, disputed or neglected aspect of the field. Generate a hypothesis and discuss your ideas. Your hypothesis can be as wild as you want, however, you should not be ignorant. Please review existing alternative hypothesis, put your ideas into context.
An example: Clayton found that jays prefer stored worms to peanuts when allowed
to search within 4 hours following caching, and peanuts to worms when time gap
is longer (Nature,
1998). Clayton revealed that jays remember what, where and when they stored,
and suggested this is evidence for human-like episodic memory in jays.
An alternative hypothesis could be to assume, that jays discriminate soft from hard items as unlearned categories, posses a biological clock measuring time after caching, and would switch category preference by time elapsed, automatically. Such a mechanisms still could be basis for episodic memory, however, if preference shift is based solely on unlearned mechanisms, the jays' memory is different from human episodic memory. In this case you would discuss the concept of episodic memory, and design an experiment to test the hypothesis. For example, you might design an experiment to see, whether jays switch preference based on their experience with worms getting spoiled, or they do this without, or even on the contrary to such experience. For example you could manipulate the condition of worms getting spoiled in 4 hours, or not getting spoiled even after 4 days, present these conditions to groups of birds, and test whether they would shift preference differentially.
Do you have an alternative hypothesis for the re-caching experiment of Clayton (theory of mind)?
Discuss an aspect not reviewed extensively by others. Discuss existing ideas
from your perspective.
For example you may review song as an honest signal, similarities and differences between imprinting in nature vs lab, role of dopaminergic system in stereotypic behaviour vs. learning etc.
Have a point, have a message. The review is not an unstructured list of many references, PubMed does this for you, automatically.
3) Connect areas
Connect ideas, research methods, results, which have not been connected.
For example, you might discuss the quality of nest and of the song with respect to female choice. You can get some data from the literature on various species, and do some comparisons. Alternatively, you can design an experiment to reveal the importance of these factors independently or in combination.
Describe some phenomena interesting to you. Give links and pics.
For example, you can describe some behaviour regarding form and function in detail. Your description then might be used as an example in later courses. However, choose this option only, if you have firsthand experience with the species and the behaviour.
5) Introduction to your MS thesis
Simply collecting, structuring and presenting background for your MS thesis. However, this is not an option for postgrad students.
Structure of the essay can be informal. Please make explicit:
Please do not start writing too early. Use the consultation time offered, ask for literature, play with it in your mind, discuss it all over with me and your dog, make the major point, and when approved, start writing. But then be quick to get it done by mid December.
Never wrote essay? Time to start practising. Find help consulting this link collection.
Struggle and have fun, Peter Kabai
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