Maja Hampson

Research, zoo keeping adventures, art, unicorns

Today I'm going to introduce you to ethograms. I think they're a fun activity to do at the zoo for those of you who have young, budding biologists or if you're a science nerd yourself.

An ethogram is inventory of behavior exhibited by an animal. To get started, list behaviors and describe them accurately. You can do this by observing animals at the zoo first and writing down what they do; or looking for examples online or in textbooks. Here's mine for the pigmy hippos at Bristol Zoo:

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Then go to the zoo an observe the animals. There are different kinds of sampling methods, but lets just pick between two of them. You can 1.) either watch the animal(s) and record every time they do a behavior or 2.) you can record behavior at time intervals – like every 5 minuets. If you're doing this with young children just cater to their attention span. If 10 minuets of watching animals and writing down behaviors is enough then awesome.

If you're super enthusiastic, you can even make charts and graphs! Here's mine for the pigmy hippos.

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They did a whole lot of nothing and that's to be expected with hippos. If you're doing an ethogram for the first time, especially with a child, pick an animal that's active - like pretty much any species of monkey.

And have fun! Feel free to share your results with me :D

[1] Bowers, T. E., Waterman, J. M., Kuhar, C. W & Bettinger, T. L. (2010). Social behaviors within a group of captive female Hippopotamus amphibus. J. Ethol. 28: 287–294. DOI 10.1007/s10164-009- 0184-6


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