Jenn Smith, a Blumstein alum, and I recently participated in the Animal Behavior Society outreach fair in Boulder, Colorado. Our exhibit featured how researchers are able to identify individuals in a group.
Back to the outreach fair--as children approach the table, we give them pictures of hyenas and ask if they can tell them apart. All of the children realize they can use the spots to find differences among individuals. That's the easy part. When we ask them if they can tell squirrels apart from one another, most shake their head no in response. We show them how we trap the squirrels and give them marks. When we tell them that we need their help in coming up with new marks, they are more than happy to draw some great designs for us. Some wonderful examples include a snowman with long stick arms, a very intricate fish, and some wild flames. Most kids are also drawn to the video of marmot pups playing together. I ask them if they could describe the behaviors. Most came up with some great descriptions for wrestling, pushing, and biting.
We would also like to thank Joan Strassmann for taking most of the photos above. For more fun, please check out her wonderful blog, Sociobiology!