Tuesday, September 20, 2011

♬ You can't always get what you want ♬

So we just finished round 1 of trials back here is Lubbock, and unfortunately, things aren't going quite as planned. If you remember, my hypothesis about the lab toads (from the invasive range) is that:

Cane toads from the invasive range (S. Florida) are, on average, more exploratory and better learners than toads from the native range (Panama).

Why did I think this? Well, when an animal is invasive, it is more likely to encounter novel (new) environments and items. High exploration and mobility would allow toads to gather more information. If the toads use this information to locate food resources, then they are learning.

However as I said, things aren't going quite as planned. Why not, you ask? Well, I'm honestly not sure. You see, we have a confounding factor. A confounding factor is something that may alter the response variable (in this case, the behavior of the toads in the arena) without prior knowledge. In the first round of trials, the confounding factor seems to be... moonlight.

Yes, the moonlight. The bulb that I went out of my way to purchase and install in the arena room. I didn't think about it beforehand, but the bulb is purple/blue tinged to "mimic" moonlight. We discovered over the summer that blue colored plastic has an interesting effect on the toads; they seem to calm down and stop struggling. We termed this blue plastic "the blue cone of silence", and thought nothing of it other than being a funny anecdote. Well, fast forward to the beginning of the first round of trials. Arena set up, lighting in place, toads are ready - and they hardly move at all. And of course, it just so happened that the first day of trials I tested all 3 experimental group individuals in this round - so I have no idea if they were just unmotivated, if the light affected them adversely, or if there's something else going on altogether. I immediately switched back to using the low-intensity LED lights I had used in the pilot study, but the damage had already been done. Oh well, such is science sometimes!

The good news is that we're starting round 2 on Monday of next week, with 5 more toads. Hopefully I'll be able to discern what's really going on, and make further predictions about the behavior of the lab toads. Until then, I'm working hard on about 6 other writing projects, and trying to finish gathering my data from this summer. The life of a graduate student is busy, busy, busy!

1 comment:

  1. Well done for taking time to notice something was different even while working on 6 projects. Anxiously awaiting how they respond to LEDs!