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Research Methodologies

 

On Uncertain Sightings and Inference about Extinction

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This article discusses two different statistical models to analyze wildlife sighting data. The difference in the models lies in the way they handle uncertain sightings. The data conditions under which each model is most appropriate are discussed. The author applies both models to the case of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which may or may not be extinct, to illustrate the differences in the results that are produced.




You Can’t Get There from Here: A Response to Lohr and Lepczyk

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This article is a critique prepared by feral cat advocate Peter J. Wolf, Martha Girdany of the Kauai Community Cat Project and Frank Hamilton, President of the Animal Coalition of Tampa, of a study published in the journal Conservation Biology. "Desires and Management Preferences of Stakeholders Regarding Feral Cats in the Hawaiian Islands" concludes that most Hawaiians strongly favored capture and lethal injection over Trap-Neuter-Release programs to manage feral cats. Wolf, Kirdany and Hamilton question the methodology used in the study, and contrast the results to widely divergent results in similar studies.

Lack of Blinding of Outcome Assessors in Animal Model Experiments Implies Risk of Observer Bias

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Only 15% of non-human animal experiments are blinded, whereas use of blinding in experiments on humans is widespread. This review identified 10 studies that had both blinded and non-blinded assessors for the same group of test animals, and analyzed them for the presence of 5 types of "effect modifiers" (bias). Result interpretation for all 10 studies exhibited at least one of the modifiers. The degree of distortion varied from small to pronounced. The authors call for more blinding in experiments on animal, particularly where interpretation of results is subjective.



Animal Reintroductions: An Innovative Assessment of Survival

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toad sitting on twigs and dirtThis study introduced Boreal Toad tadpoles to a site in Rocky Mountain National Park to bolster declining populations. The authors argue that assessments at various stages of such studies allow adjustment for unexpected effects. For example, when tadpole survival was low after the first releases, tadpoles were grown to a larger stage in the lab before subsequent releases. The reintroduced toads have demonstrated some disease resistance, but have not yet reproduced.



Faces of Advocacy: Who We Really Are

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There are many studies on the demographics of animal advocacy, as well as more in-depth explorations, that give us an intriguing portrait of the "activist" face of animal advocacy. But what about the people who don't fit the conventional definition of "activist," or the majority demographic profile, who may not even see themselves as animal advocates? Are there other faces of animal advocacy that are overlooked, and if so, what is the cost to these unacknowledged advocates - and to animal advocacy itself - of not counting them in?

Reading a Book Can Change Your Mind, But Only Some Changes Last for a Year

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The goal of this study was to measure the impact of reading an engaging book with a message upon the attitudes of college students soon after their exposure to the material, compared to a year later. Students who had read the book were significantly more aligned with the author's views on several food-related issues than students who had not, although the degree of agreement declined after a year on most issues. The possible impact of multiple, widely publicized food safety scares before and during the study period was not addressed.


An Overview of Surveys on How People View Animal Experimentation: Some Factors that May Influence the Outcome

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This Swedish study from 2003 reviewed 56 surveys, from a number of different countries, which included questions on the ethical acceptability of using animals for scientific experimentation. Since statistical methodology, phrasing of questions, respondent populations, and categorization of respondent populations varied widely, it was not possible to generalize accurately from the studies, although the authors present several general conclusions.


Cats vs. Birds: Researching the Research

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In this reblogged post from his Vox Felina blog, feral cat advocate Peter J. Wolf demonstrates how to evaluate the validity of research with his in-depth critique of a study on bird predation. Policy decisions to promote the well-being of all animals should be based on sound research, not regurgitated assumptions. Animal advocates should be on the lookout for poorly documented assertions about animals in the press.


Methods Used to Estimate the Size of the Owned Cat and Dog Population: a Systematic Review

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This literature review analyzed studies on companion animal population to compare methodology and determine effectiveness. Only 7 studies from 5 countries were sufficiently rigorous to meet inclusion criteria. Overall quality of the studies was questionable due to inadequate transparency of method, problematic sample size justification, and failure to correct for selection, non-response, or measurement biases. The authors advocate complete census as the ideal approach for accurate results, and suggest careful study design for researchers.

Salivary Cortisol and Behavior in Therapy Dogs During Animal-Assisted Interventions: A Pilot Study

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The efficacy of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for humans has been studied, but research into its impact on the animals is limited. This Austrian pilot study measured dog behavioral and biochemical reactions during an AAT program for drug-addicted inpatients, carried out by teams of two therapists, one of whom was the dog's guardian, with groups of 8-10 patients. The dogs were therapy-certified, and participated in AAT regularly. No definitive signs of stress were found. The authors call for larger studies to address a broader range of variables, clarify the impact of AAT on dogs, and identify subtle indicators of discomfort that guardians can watch for.

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