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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Pilot Studies Keep Me Flying High

  • Author(s): Hygnstrom, Scott E.
  • et al.

Those who have been in the field of wildlife damage management very long probably have a file drawer full of half-baked ideas and ill-fated research projects that never should have seen the light of day. This paper will be a tongue-in-cheek look at the scientific method and saving grace of pilot studies. A pilot study is a small-scale test of the procedures to be used in a large-scale study. The goal of pilot work is not supposed to be the testing of hypotheses, but sometimes researchers just can’t help themselves. Beware of small sample sizes and the potential for false negative and false positive results. I have been involved in more pilot studies than I care to admit that ended up being a total bust, but there have been some that led to well-informed modifications of study designs and results that were immediately publishable because the variation in resultant data was low and results were clear cut. Pilot studies have expanded my knowledge of systems, study design, methodology, and the behavior of individual animals. I encourage the use of pilot studies in research associated with vertebrate pest management.

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