Building hypotheses

Occasionally a hypothesis presents itself of thin air, a flash of inspiration that makes you spill your coffee in your haste to write it down. More often, it’s the result of discussion and hours of tedious thorough literature analysis. If the lit review does not preceed the hypothesis, it sure as anything will follow it because one cannot stand on the shoulders of giants until one has climbed the rest of them.

I’m in one of the stages of research that it is far less easy to glamorise: building and refining the hypotheses that will allow me to detect whether geese identical to human eyes (certainly from a distance of 500m) behave differently towards their fellow geese. After all the time in the field, I’ve a good idea of the type of information I’m able to collect, and the order in which I’ve got to get the information; these geese are highly mobile and there’s never any guarantee of being able to get through a focal watch before they’re off. When it’s hot, glare off the water can make collars unreadable; when it’s raining or misting the ‘scope’s of little use; grooming, resting, dabbling and long grass all hide the collars; and even when out and in plain view the geese seem to take delight in standing in front of each other.

This isn’t a moan about the troubles of resighting however! Many people passed on the warning never to work with children or animals, and still I chose to. Willingly. This is a celebration of the (transient) splendor of a well-formed hypothesis. Soon the hypothesis must be submitted to trial and muddied with practicalities. The most appropriate method may not be the first and the most elegant analysis will require hours (or weeks) of work for a few sentences in the ‘Results’ section. Hypotheses nurtured lovingly will prove contrary and intransigent, and some may be sacrificed.

Bring on the analyses.

Yellow – image property of the talented Nathan Sawaya, brick artist

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