The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Virtually there: Using live-feeding cameras to teach primate behavior


1Social and Behavioral Sciences, Columbus State Community College, 2Anthropology, The Ohio State University

March 28, 2015 , Archview Ballroom Add to calendar

A number of zoos now have cameras that allow people to observe a variety of primate species in real time. This technology has the potential to transform how instructors teach the methodologies behind the study of primate behavior. It offers an inexpensive and dynamic way to introduce concepts such as ethograms, instantaneous and continuous focal sampling, activity budgets, and inter-observer reliability. We developed an in-class activity for introductory and advanced biological anthropology students using live-feeds of primate behavior. Some of the live-feeds we used include: Blank Park Zoo Snow Monkey Cam, Callicam, National Zoo Orangutan Cam, San Diego Zoo Ape Cam, and Zoo Atlanta Tamarin Cam. We present qualitative results on the effectiveness of live-feed activities that were collected from ten classes (nine introductory biological anthropology and one upper-level primate behavior) over five semesters at both the community college and university level. The use of live-feeds presented both positives and negatives in students’ experiences and their comprehension of ethological methods. For example, the San Diego Zoo Ape Cam was the most reliable in terms of the quality of the exhibit and the camera feed, but the animals were frequently out of view. We also experienced technical difficulties with some of the live-feeds. Overall, live-feeds are a beneficial tool for student learning but one that should be approached with caution and preparation. Therefore, we also present some suggestions for the successful use of live-feed cameras in the classroom.