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This article will explain the various stages/steps in the process of biodiversity research. If you are interested in being a citizen scientist and carrying out biodiversity research of your own to contribute towards conservation, this article will help you understand the process.


A] Deciding the Objectives of the Study or the Hypothesis to be tested -


A hypothesis is a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation. Scientists develop a hypothesis which they seek to test through their experiment or study. For example I may want to know whether the fish biodiversity is lower in a river being overfished when compared to a very similar river running through a protected area. In this example my limited evidence which I use as a starting point for further investigation is my knowledge that the former river is being fished very frequently and fishermen are complaining of a lower catch. For simple studies like inventories you would just develop objectives rather than a hypothesis which is to find out what species are available in an area, no standard hypothesis as such is developed as you don’t have any limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation i.e. You don’t have any prior information regarding how many or what species there are in the area.


Thus the first step in the process of research is to develop a hypothesis from which you develop the objectives of your research or if it is a simple baseline study such as a simple inventory, just develop the objectives without a hypothesis. Check the page on  biodiversity studies you can undertake for some ideas.


B] Planning a Study

This section deals with the general step by step lay out of how any research study is planned and has links to a generalized article for every important aspect of the planning process. (Each type of research study mentioned on this site also has an associated article which will guide you on carrying out that particular study which will serve as a specific plan and lay out pertaining to that type of study.)

1. Choose a biodiversity taxon/group which you intend to study and make sure that you have read  the general sampling methods  and or the  group specific sampling methods (coming soon) for the chosen taxon/group. The group specific sampling methods pages also have details of the equipment required for sampling. Any general equipment required for carrying out a specific type of study (regardless of the taxon/group of choice) will be mentioned in the page explaining how to carry out that study.


2. Once you've selected what kind of study you want to carry out,  review the literature  of the research done on the subject of your choice in general and the research carried out specific to the location you are going to carry it out in. Modify the objectives based on this.


3. Pick your  sampling strategy and the sampling method you are going to use for the field work. Plan out the data sheets (standard data sheets required for each of the types of studies mentioned in this website are given on the page where the study is explained.).


4. Make sure you have planned out all expenses relating to the study if any, that you have access to all the equipment required and plan out the timing of the sampling and data collection.


5. Make sure you have a brief idea of the means by which you will analyze the data for your study (if it is required). All the pages on this website that describe how a particular  type of biodiversity study is carried out on this website also have links that lead to pages describing the data analysis methods that can be used for that study. It is very important to have a good idea of the data analysis that you are going to carry out after the sampling is over as it will help you double check your data sheet to make sure that you will not forget to collect all the data you need when you start sampling.



C] Piloting the study


It is important to undertake a short pilot study prior to initiation of your main study. A pilot study is a short preliminary study usually carried out on a smaller scale which is carried out to test the design and logistics of the main study so as to identify the drawbacks and make improvements upon the original plan of the main study. Pilot studies help to identify inadequacy and critical mistakes in the plan and lay out of the study and help make sure that the data required to achieve the objectives of the study is being obtained as planned. Another important aspect of pilot studies is their potential in testing the time and cost requirements of the main study prior to it’s initiation. By analyzing the time and monetary costs required to carry out the pilot study it is possible to get an estimate of the time and monetary costs of the entire study. This is done through the  estimation of the sample size required for the results of your study.


D] Carrying out the main study based on improvements and lessons learnt from the pilot study -

After pilot work is carried out and the design of the study has been improved to weed out all the inconsistencies and inadequacies the main study can then be carried out.  


E] Data entry and analysis -

Once data collection is completed, data should be entered into a computer in a spreadsheet format (like Microsoft excel or any of it’s free alternatives like Kingsoft/Libre/Open office) to facilitate data analysis. Most basic data analysis softwares which are freely available and easy to use can have data directly imported from a spreadsheet format or copied from a spreadsheet format to it’s own data entry interface. Data analysis can then be carried out. (For all the methods and means of data analysis used for studies described in this website, the links to the data analysis for each study can be found in the page describing how that study is carried out.)


F] Writing up a research paper and publishing it -


After you have carried out your data analysis, the results of the study should be  written up in the form of a research paper , and published so that your efforts can contribute towards the science of conservation. So others can learn from your efforts and in the case of studies collecting baseline information your results will lead to much time, money and effort being saved for those who need the information to create and implement conservation plans.


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