Tag Archives: perception

Carsten Rahbek: The Role of a Natural History Museum

Image Credit: Sam Perrin, CC BY-SA 2.0

My number one go-to when visiting a new city is their Museum of Natural History. And whilst it may have stemmed from a love of massive dinosaur skeletons, it eventually developed into a appreciation of the concepts that drive the natural world. I now work at NTNU’s Natural History Museum, and getting a glimpse at what happens behind the scenes has deepened that appreciation further.

With that in mind, I sat down with Professor Carsten Rahbek of the Natural History Museum of Denmark to talk about the role of a Natural History Museum in today’s world. Carsten and I previously spoke about the relationship of ecology with the media (which you can read about here) but in this interview I wanted to talk about whether Natural history Museums needed to evolve, and the connection between a Museum’s research and its exhibitions.

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Scared to Death

Fear itself of a predator is enough to reduce populations of a snowshoe hare, show Macleod at al.

Fear itself of a predator is enough to reduce populations of a snowshoe hare, show Macleod at al. (Image Credit: Dave Doe, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)

Fear and lethality in snowshoe hares: the deadly effects of non-consumptive predation risk (2018) MacLeod et al., Oikos 127(3)

The Crux

When we think of a predator-prey relationship, many colorful examples of charismatic animals come to mind: the lion and the wildebeest, the orca and the seal, the owl and the mouse. We think of these organisms locked in an endless battle, with one needing to catch and eat, the other to escape and live. While these are definitely interesting and important aspects of the predator-prey relationship, prey species need to worry about more than just being eaten. These “non-consumptive effects” play into what is called the Ecology of Fear.

This study was an attempt to show that the perceived risk of predation itself was enough to reduce survival in prey species. Unlike previous studies on this question, MacLeod et al. were the first to conclusively show this effect in mammals.

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