Neotropical migratory birds make use of a variety of foods throughout their life cycle, yet every year they migrate to the temperate forests of New England to feed on insects. They risk the long journey because during summer months, the food in the temperate forests is more caloric, nutrient rich, and abundant than that in the tropics. In order to learn the types and amount of insects available to birds during the summer, avian scientists at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest walk along imaginary fixed lines—called transects—through the forest and survey the insects found along these lines. The purpose of this lesson is to: a) teach students that birds migrate to find food; b) introduce the transect as a key research method that is used to collect data in an efficient manner; and c) build awareness and understanding for the reasons that scientists want to collect these data. Students will use a basic arthropod identification guide to collect data along a simulated transect, represent this data graphically, and then analyze the results.
Skill level: Average
Classes appropriate for: Life Science, Biology, Environmental Science