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CDarwin

Is this a half-decent research idea?

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Alright, I want to do a research project for this Junior Science and Humanities Symposium thing. It has to be original research, well conducted, etc. A lot of people just test other people's hypotheses which is probably a good idea, but being the over-achiever that I am I've decided to come up with my own research question. In short I've gone through about 5 crappy ideas that I couldn't do, and I finally think I've come up with something doable, and I'm just wondering if it's worth doing.

 

I got a list of the all the vocalizations observed in a wild study population of Cercopithecus mits, the blue monkey, from an ethogram published on this site, which I thought was somewhat rare. There's also an article in A Primate Radiation: Evolutionary Biology of the African Guenons using guenon calls for taxonomic purposes, so that might be useful. Other than that I've found a hodgepog of other possibly vaguely useful articles, so if anyone knew of any on the effects of captivity on monkey behavior or the reasons calls are given or anything like that, that would be wonderful too.

 

To rap this up, I want to compare the calls emitted by the wild blue monkeys with those emitted by a pair of captive blue monkeys from the Knoxville Zoo. Does anyone have any comments? Suggestions?

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I'm sorry that I can't think of a way to express this that doesn't sound like I'm being dismissive of the idea and condescending; that's not my intention but I have to ask; Do monkeys have regional accents?

 

If they do then you might not be looking at the effect of captivity, just the fact that they didn't sound like each other.

Even if you can't be certain of the reason for any difference between the vocalisations of the 2 groups then it's still a valid piece of research to see if such a difference exists.

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That's quite an interesting question, John. It's akin to asking if Boston monkeys sound different than Georgia monkeys?

 

I think, though (and correct me if I'm wrong) that CDarwin is trying to determine if the monkeys in the wild have a different style, pacing, and timing (etc.) of calls from monkeys in the zoo.

 

So, he's looking to see if the monkeys in the wild sing "jazz," and if monkeys in the zoo sing "blues." Your question implies that they are all singing jazz, but that some are baratone and others are soprano. ;)

 

 

Bada Bing.

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CDarwin.

 

Congrats on such an ambitious undertaking. I'm sure you'll receive a lot if input so I'll just touch on a few points.

 

When we do research we ask the 'so what?' question. What's the study trying to accomplish and what is that accomplishment contributing. will your study tell us something about primate behavior? Is it anthropological related and can tell us someting about human behavior? Is is a study confined to contributing to the greater knowledge of vocalizations in captive populations?

 

Otherwise: Captive populations develop their own vocalizations.

 

0r: the same and this indicates..(the so what) ?

 

Both studies would have their value but the latter might be better received by evaluators not steeped in primatology.

 

some hints:

 

Do a search in the Intl. Journal of Primatology and equivalent journals to determine what, if anything is done.

 

Your local zoo (if acredited) has a master list of all animals that are in North American zoos. For instance, if there are Blue monkeys in San Diego or here in Calgary, etc, then that info is available and even the genetic relationships (if any) are known. There is also a master list of zookeepers, etc. You might be able to email any keepers of Blue monkeys for added info. Sometimes there are graduate students doing studies that are not published and the keepers might share this info with you.

 

Lay a foundation for your study. Answer questions such as:

 

-how genetic diverse is the population being studied (new males introduced?)

-are they all captive bred

-how many generations since they were in a natural state?

-influence of other zoo primates? Those not native to their ecosysytem?

-etc...it's important to define your controlled group

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I think, though (and correct me if I'm wrong) that CDarwin is trying to determine if the monkeys in the wild have a different style, pacing, and timing (etc.) of calls from monkeys in the zoo.

 

That would be interesting to study, but I'm not sure if I have enough data on the wild population to do that. What I was talking about was more "how many of the wild calls do the captive monkeys make"? Sorry, I should have been more specific there.

 

When we do research we ask the 'so what?' question. What's the study trying to accomplish and what is that accomplishment contributing. will your study tell us something about primate behavior? Is it anthropological related and can tell us someting about human behavior? Is is a study confined to contributing to the greater knowledge of vocalizations in captive populations?

 

I thought it could possibly have implications as to understanding the genetic basis of primate behavior. If the calls of the two groups are different, then that could be the result of any number of environmental variables, but if blue monkeys living in their natural habitat and blue monkeys living in the rather extensively modified habitat of a wire feed-silo in Knoxville, Tennessee use the same calls then that might mean that the calls have a substantial genetic component.

 

Thank you for those suggestions, I'll look into those. I have fair access to journals through the UT library and the ETSU library which I can actually access at home since my ETSU password from Governor's School still works. The Knoxville Zoo is kind of tight-lipped about it's animals, though. You have to get your research proposal approved before they'll tell you anything, which seems kind of circular, but I'll work on it.

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As a note, and possibly something to research I know that dolphins of the same species which live in different areas have different "accents" and there was a study a few months ago that showed that cows in the UK had reginal "accents". Might be worth looking into these papers.

 

And possibly comparing 2 sets of wild calls to 1 set of captive, or 2 captive to 1 wild...

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Alright, I want to do a research project for this Junior Science and Humanities Symposium thing. It has to be original research, well conducted, etc. A lot of people just test other people's hypotheses which is probably a good idea, but being the over-achiever that I am I've decided to come up with my own research question. To rap this up, I want to compare the calls emitted by the wild blue monkeys with those emitted by a pair of captive blue monkeys from the Knoxville Zoo. Does anyone have any comments? Suggestions?

 

What is your hypothesis? Make that first, then you can get an idea of your methods and what you need to have.

 

It sounds like your hypothesis could be: calls of captive blue monkeys are restricted compared to the calls of wild blue monkeys.

 

If that is the case, compare the calls of the two groups and see if the captive monkeys use the full repertoire of calls of the wild monkeys. This is more a quantitative study.

 

Alternatively, the hypothesis could be: captive monkeys have qualitatitively different calls than wild monkeys. In this case, you compare the actual vocalizations and see if the calls used are different in sound produced.

 

That would be interesting to study, but I'm not sure if I have enough data on the wild population to do that. What I was talking about was more "how many of the wild calls do the captive monkeys make"?

 

OK, so make that a statement, not a question. Hypothesis: captive monkeys do not make as many calls as the wild monkeys.

 

I thought it could possibly have implications as to understanding the genetic basis of primate behavior. If the calls of the two groups are different, then that could be the result of any number of environmental variables, but if blue monkeys living in their natural habitat and blue monkeys living in the rather extensively modified habitat of a wire feed-silo in Knoxville, Tennessee use the same calls then that might mean that the calls have a substantial genetic component.

 

I think you are reaching beyond your available data. Forget the genetic component. You already have too many alternative hypotheses to check.

 

1. The captive monkeys were born in the zoo and therefore don't know any of the wild calls. You also have to determine whether the monkeys in the zoo were caught in the wild as adults or born in the zoo.

 

2. The calls in the wild refer to social interactions of an entire troop, but there are only 2 monkeys in the zoo. Thus many of the calls in the wild would not be appropriate.

 

3. The situations in the zoo are roughly similar to those in the wild: here is food, time to sleep, groom me, there is a predator (even if it is in a cage and can't get to them), etc. So you need to compare situations.

 

You have to get your research proposal approved before they'll tell you anything, which seems kind of circular, but I'll work on it.

 

Not at all circular. State your hypothesis and your methods. In this case all you want are the recordings of the vocalizations made by the captive monkeys. If possible, it would be good to have a physical context.

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What is your hypothesis? Make that first, then you can get an idea of your methods and what you need to have.

 

It sounds like your hypothesis could be: calls of captive blue monkeys are restricted compared to the calls of wild blue monkeys.

 

If that is the case, compare the calls of the two groups and see if the captive monkeys use the full repertoire of calls of the wild monkeys. This is more a quantitative study.

 

That's what I was planning.

 

 

 

I've had another thought... What if I were to study the reaction of the zoo's blue monkeys to the alarm calls of other primates with which they form polyspecific associations in the wild? I would have to see if the blue monkeys were raised wild or in captivity (actually I know one, the male, is from the Louisiana Purchase Zoo), but it seems like a study like that would partially correct for the social and environmental factors so I'd have fewer variables to deal with. It might be hard to get a hold of recordings from the appropriate animals.

 

Would there be any merit in that?

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1. The captive monkeys were born in the zoo and therefore don't know any of the wild calls. You also have to determine whether the monkeys in the zoo were caught in the wild as adults or born in the zoo.

 

 

On this, can I also suggest - Check whether the monkeys in captivity where raised completely by human hands from shortly after birth. And if they had any social interaction at all with monkeys that have had 'wild' experience or parents.

 

I'd imagine these non -wild monkeys would be the closest thing to the ideal monkeys to compare with their wild counter parts.

 

cheers

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