Field Experience and African Birds






One of the best parts of my study abroad program by far is the directed research that all of the students take part in at the end of the year. Not only is it super fun, but it is an incredible opportunity to gain some research and fieldwork experience. For my project I chose to study how elevation levels affect bird body morphology. I spent nine days in the field using mist nets to capture birds and measuring their wings, tails, mass, and beaks. It was incredible to be able to see these beautiful and very unique birds up close and personal and gain experience handling them. But it was not easy. With long hours, harsh field conditions, and a tight schedule I had to put in a lot of work and patience into my data collection, and I learned just how difficult field research can be. The unfortunate thing about working with wildlife is that you cannot control how many birds you catch, you can try to put your nets in favorable locations, but at the end of the day a rainstorm or the late afternoon sun can severely decrease the amount that you catch. Not only is it frustrating, but I was super worried about not collecting enough data for my study. In the end I caught over 150 birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and I feel like I have learned so much about them throughout the course of my research. Not only have I learned new species, but also their habits, location preferences, and how little research has been done on studying them along elevation gradients. Now that I am onto data analysis I am so so excited to see if there are any trends present and what my data can show me. It has been a long and tiring process, and I still have a long way to go, but I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.