** **

**2.
Interpretation of results: The obvious message
from the results section and the tables and graphs is that all three
sampling techniques produced similar results. One method, the Line
Transect, encountered all ten of the different kinds "species" of
ground cover at the site. Consequently, Line Transects may be more
sensitive to sampling less prevalent landscape features. Strip
Transect and Plot Survey both failed to yield any data for three of
the parameters. This fact raises questions as to the adequacy of
Strip Transects and Plot Surveys conducted with the degree of
sampling contained herein. Evaluation of the number of samples
required to produce a statistically valid sample size lies outside
the scope of this investigation.**

**In spite
of the potential limitations of Strip Transect and Plot Survey
methods, all three methods were in agreement relative to the three
major ground covers on the survey site. Natural litter was most
prevalent, grass was second and bare soil the third most dominant
ground cover. Even the percentages were in relatively close agreement
for these parameters. Both the Strip Transect and Plot Survey found
forbs to be the fourth most dominant ground cover. The Line Transect
method placed forbs as fifth, with trees in the fourth spot. Trees
were the fifth most encountered ground cover using the Plot Survey
method, but were totally missed on the Strip Transects. Since both
Line and Strip Transects were performed over the same one hundred
meter plots, this could point out a shortcoming of the Strip Transect
methodology. Shrubs appeared to be equally identified by all
techniques, falling in a tie for sixth using Line Transects and Plot
Surveys and seventh employing the Strip Transect method. **

**All
three methods found human litter and cactus to be among the least (or
absent) ground cover. Only rock (which ranged from a high of fifth
most prevalent on the Strip Transect to eight on the Line Transect)
and animal litter (which was sixth on the Strip Transect and not
encountered on the Plot Survey) appeared to differ in percent
coverage between the three methods.**

** **

**3.
Contextualization of the Results: Ecological
scientific inquiry often involves a comparison of the similarities or
differences between sites or populations within sites. One method is
generally used to sample two populations to determine if they are
actually different. This investigation involved sampling the same
habitat (population) to determine if three different methods would
produce the same or similar results. **

**In order
to statistically evaluate the results, each method was treated as a
different population. The null hypothesis is: There is no statistical
difference detected between the three methods employeed in measuring
the frequency of occurrence in the population. With our limited class
time constraints, it was not possible to procure enough survey data
to negate our null hypothesis. Two degrees of freedom for each method
produced results that were not sufficiently rigorous in this regard.
By subdividing our one hundred meter transects into two transects of
fifty meter length, we could perform Students' T test in a serial
fashion to compare each of the three pairs of possible combinations.
There is still inadequate data to negate the null hypothesis.
Therefore, no statistically significant difference between any of our
three "populations" was shown. **

**A visual
comparison of the tables and graphs in the results section, and a
glance at the mean averages of frequency for our population
occurrence confirms these calculations, and is probably much more
meaningful for the viewer. **

**In
applying the results of our study, the following conclusions and
recommendations are made. There is no particular order to the
comments, but an attempt has been made to be comprehensive. All three
methods require a comparable amount of time to perform, but the Plot
Survey method requires an additional amount of time to set up and
take down. The Plot Survey and Strip Transect methods may be more
suited to sampling in a uniform habitat, or one where there is an
even distribution in order to avoid under sampling of minority
constituents. The Line Transect and Strip Transect methods require
the least equipment. One hundred meter tapes are very expensive, but
if not available, any suitable string or rope that can be marked
(possibly in advance) into one meter sections will
suffice.**

**All
three methods are fast paced and interesting. Each method should hold
the attention of student researchers. Comparison of two populations
is preferable and makes statistical analysis much easier. Instruction
in monitoring techniques prior to arrival in the field will eliminate
on site confusion and produce more uniform survey results. The Plot
Survey method causes the most site disturbance. If the same plots are
monitored repeatedly, site disturbance could play a significant role
in distorting out year data. The Plot Survey method "looks the most
scientific". **

** **

**4.
Analysis of Errors: Errors incurred in our
project are of two types. First, we should have kept our analysis to
only two methods and performed more replicates of each. In that way
we might have gained sufficient data to negate our null hypothesis
and show a statistically rigorous difference in results obtained with
the two methods. Additionally, statistical analysis of our data would
have been much more straightforward in examining two populations
rather than three. Second, we failed to calibrate our reading of the
survey point prior to data collection. This likely produced
discrepancy in data collection and may have negatively affected the
project. Inherent in any data collection is a certain amount of
subjectivity. This is especially true when data is collected by more
than one researcher. Practicing before arrival in the field could
have enhanced uniformity and objectivity of data collection. Finally,
we probably made mistakes of which we are not aware.**

**Feedback
and suggestions for enhancement of this study are sought and
encouraged from all readers and reviewers. **

** **

**5.
Summary of Conclusions: By a simple visual comparison
and examination of the mean averages for the three methods, our
investigation shows that any of the three methods would obtain
comparable results. Therefore, the method utilized in determination
of frequency of ground cover in an evergreen forest habitat can be
based on the set of criteria and goals that surround the study.
**

** **

**6.
Suggestions for Future Research: Since lack of
adequate data handicapped our ability to perform rigorous statistical
analysis, the obvious next step is to secure more sampling using all
three protocols. It would be especially interesting to determine the
level of data collection required for Strip Transect and Plot Survey
methods to sample less dominant "species". It would also be
interesting to determine if the Line Transect method sustained the
current distribution, or if the initial two transects were anomalous.
Finally, it must be determined if these results are consistent in
other habitat types, or only applicable to forest biomes.**