Field studies have two objectives that seem contradictory. First the whole point is to study organisms in relation to their natural environment without intervening. Second, the organisms must be studies with precision, which requires intervening. Individuals must be caught and measured from stem to stern to know what traits they possess and how they differ from one another. They must be marked if they do not already have natural markings that enable them to be identified. Sometimes they must be outfitted with radio transmitters so that they can be reliably located.  They must be observed and filmed to obtain a permanent record of their behaviours.  Their children must be counted to measure how they fared in the Darwinian contest.  While all this poking and prying is going on, they’re supposed to act naturally!

Remarkably, most species do act naturally after they have acclimated to the people and paraphernalia of a field study.  If you have watched Meerkat Manor, you know that Flower and other members of the Whiskers Clan hop onto the scales to be weighed for a small food reward. climb on the heads and shoulders of the scientists for a better look around, and otherwise treat the scientists as an unthreatening part of their environment.  Some species have even moved into our cities, such as pigeons long ago and deer and crows more recently, where they go about their daily lives in our midst, unconcerned by our presence unless we pose a threat.

David Sloan Wilson, The Neighbourhood Project (2011) p. 22