Although the end of the field season has officially arrived, everything we learned this summer is still very much with us. In addition to the data we collected (and have already started to organize into graphs and tables), we’ve ended up with an extensive collection of digital media: all in all, more than two thousand files of photos, videos, and audio recordings.
Throughout the past few months, we were almost always attached to a camera, video camera, or audio recorder when we were out in the field. Our mission was to document as much as we possibly could of the life histories for the Cardinalids we were studying. Many of us were trained the semester before to work with the digital equipment we would be using in the field – as an optional addition to his Ornithology course, Dr. Winkler led weekly Sunday morning outings where budding ‘digital ornithologists’ had the opportunity to learn to work with professional-grade DSLR cameras, such as the Canon 5D Mark II (complete with 500 mm lenses and tripods), as well as Marantz recorders with either shotgun microphones or parabolas. In these chilly mornings, we learned how to adapt to different light conditions or adjust our depth of field by changing ISO and aperture, we learned the important steps to taking clean audio recordings, we learned about adjusting the gain and always switching the microphone on before recording. At first, we took blurry photos, we recorded more of the shuffling of feet than birdsong, and we were frustrated when we had the perfect shot framed but our subject flew out before we could snap a future masterpiece. And yet, before long, we gained confidence and improved our techniques, quickly becoming what Dr. Winkler likes to call a ‘generation of digital ornithologists.’
We took Dr. Winkler’s goal of having scientists adept at working with the technology associated with digital media and applied it to our research team. Over the field season, it has become clear that collecting digital media is important in many ways – scientifically speaking, it is invaluable for documenting interesting behaviors or morphological characteristics, or even for demonstrating field methods, but on a larger scale, pictures, videos, and song recordings speak to an audience beyond the scientific community. The very nature of digital media is conducive for widespread dissemination and hopefully, enjoyment. So we hope you enjoy the following snapshots from this past field season:
Links to videos uploaded on Youtube to come.