Luke Carabbia, 2019, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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.”