Katie Dunbar

I started doing research in the Perlut lab as a field assistant nest searching and monitoring Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows in the fields of Shelburne Farms in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. Throughout the season my interests developed and in the fall I worked in the genetics lab. With PCR and imaging techniques to identify the sexes of nestlings, I used blood samples I helped collect the season before as well as hundreds that had been collected over the last ten years (in collaboration with Steve Travis, Department of Biology, UNE). Using this information Noah and I worked out hypotheses for the sex ratios of nestlings. We discovered many factors contribute to why birds deviate from the standard 50:50 ratio of males to females. Throughout the next year I did comprehensive research on sex allocation in birds and even other branches of the animal kingdom, comparing our research with that of others to back up our theories. I presented a poster on my research at the Northeast Undergraduate Research and Development Symposium which was awarded Best Poster, my work eventually culminating in writing an article for publication in a scientific journal.

 

The field work with Noah was my first leap into avian biology research, and has opened up several opportunities. Since then I have volunteered to do raptor rehabilitation, conducted point counts for the USFWS, interned for hawk migration counts and banding, helped monitor California Condors, and am currently a research assistant training as a naturalist studying whales and pelagic birds. During the 2013 summer I will work as a field assistant in arctic Alaska nest monitoring eiders! I hope to build my avian experience to work toward a graduate program to build my career in avian biology.