Data Analysis

by David Ginsburg

Lecturer, Environmental Studies Program

After 2.5 weeks of scuba diving around Catalina, Guam, and Palau collecting information on indicator species, it was time for the students to analyze their data…a task that is often easier said than done.

A very important lesson I learned as a graduate student is never wait until you get home from a research expedition to review your data — this is especially true when working in extremely remote locations such as the far western reaches of the Pacific Ocean (i.e., Guam and Palau). Questions such as, “Where are the data sheets from last week?” and “Does anyone remember what we saw at Forgot-The-Name Reef?” are not uncommon when working in the field. And since this was the first research-field experience for the students in this course — these questions came up a lot!

To make our trip a success, we needed to analyze and interpret all survey data collected before returning to USC. One hot day, we sequestered ourselves in a classroom at the Palau International Coral Reef Center and analyzed our data while it was still fresh in everybody’s minds. We drafted a report detailing our findings, which included recommendations for future field excursions.

Although each of us yearned for the tropical paradise outside, that single day in the classroom meant that our summer adventures were accurately documented and will serve as the building blocks for future research.

In addition to drafting our report, that long, hot day had another meaning to me — it was the day that each of the students became scientists.

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