### Re: How does Zoology use math?

Date: Mon Jan 10 03:43:52 2005
Posted By: David Hubble, Consultant/Owner
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 1101689881.Zo
Message:
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Hi Chris,

Well, that's a fair question, though a very broad one. The use of maths in
any science, including zoology, very much depends on what the individual
student or zoologist is trying to do. However, there are two main ways
maths is likely to be used in zoology;

1. Performing calculations to gain information about some aspect of the
animal kingdom such as structure, locomotion (movement) or behaviour. An
example of this might be using research results taken by measuring the
area of bat wings and weighing the animals to calculate how much that
particular species of bat can carry when flying. This could also allow the
zoologist to see if there is a difference between male and female bats.
You might suggest - or in scientific terms, 'hypothesise' - that female
bats can carry more as they have to carry their young when pregnant and
still hunt for insects. This approach to using maths means that you can
create a mathematical 'model' of a flying bat so that if you put your
measurements into a set of equations (hopefully simple ones!), the answers
explain how the bat flies.

2. When taking measurements, a zoologist will generally make the same
measurement several times and take an average as single measurements might
be wrong, or at least variable, and it is important to allow for this.
Then, to turn the measurements into answers to questions (which help to
see if your suggestion or 'hypothesis' is correct), it is often necessary
to test the measurements using a type of maths called 'statistics'.
Statistical tests are another set of equations that help you to decide
whether your results give useful answers or if the variation you see is
just due to chance. It is a very complex area, and the maths can be quite
complex, so I won't describe it in detail but the equations in statistics
can tell you how closely your measurements and your 'model' (mentioned in
point 1) match up and so, how good your model is. This is very important
if a zoologist wants other scientists to accept the work they have done.

Dr. David Hubble, UK

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