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Student Prize Award Abstract
1999 Poster Paper Honorable Mention


Melissa S. Gerald1,2, John Bernstein3 and Roystone Hinkson3. 1Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, 2Barbados Primate Research Center and Wildlife Reserve (BPRC & WR), Farley Hill, St. Peter, Barbados, West Indies, 3University of West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, West Indies.

Many questions in evolutionary biology depend on measuring animal color variation. Nevertheless, assigning an objective measure for color remains a fundamental problem for researchers. Traditional methods for defining color vary with respect to their accuracy and precision. Furthermore, these methods rely on intra- and inter-observer agreement. As color is typically variable in nature, researchers may also encounter problems when attempting to assign a color measure to regions where color is non-uniformly distributed. This may therefore lead to a failure to detect subtle differences in animal color, which may be biologically meaningful to conspecifics and predators. We shall present a new and innovative approach for quantifying color, which is relatively affordable and easy to use. We found that Digital Video Cameras (thereafter DVC) and Adobe PhotoShopâ, a software application used by graphic artists for color customization, together provide a tractable and affordable means for obtaining a replicable and quantitative measure of color. Here, we describe two functions offered by PhotoShop®, which can help researchers quantify color samples while overcoming the difficulty in assigning the "best color" to heterogeneous color samples. The necessary steps, in detail, for obtaining an objective color measure will be outlined. We shall also offer additional applications of this technology for animal and plant identification and for monitoring phenological activity, where color represents a defining feature.

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