Luke Carabbia ’19


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Project Title

Effects of El Niño Rainfall Patterns on the Population Dynamics of a Tropical Forest Bird

Presentation Link

View Luke's Presentation

I worked as a field assistant in the Riehl Lab — in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute — on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. I studied the unique breeding pattern of the greater ani, a cooperatively breeding bird, as well as its decision-making abilities regarding adult allotment of food items to nestlings. I aided in monitoring the breeding groups’ activity and taking DNA swabs from laid eggs. In addition, I took blood samples from nestlings, banded them for later identification, and tracked their growth and feeding frequency through regular measurements and video recordings. I gained from this project an in-depth understanding of field biology, including different methods for acquiring data in a natural setting and the benefits of monitoring a biological system long-term. My summer internship inspired me to pursue field research for my senior independent work. I hope to analyze the ontogeny and variation of the bizarre mouthparts of the ani nestlings and experimentally test if they prompt a feeding response from parent birds.

* This internship is connected to the PEI Water and the Environment Grand Challenges project, “Effects of El Niño Rainfall Patterns on the Population Dynamics of a Tropical Forest Bird.”

Internship Year


Project Category

Biodiversity and Conservation


Princeton University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Barro Colorado Island, Panama


Christina Riehl, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology