Oliver Zhang ’21



Project Title

A Single Bird: Studying the Behavior and Life of the Greater Ani

Presentation Link

View Oliver's Presentation

I spent my summer at a small field site on the only inhabitable part of Barro Colorado Island in Panama with the Riehl Lab and scientists associated with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Prof. Riehl has been working on Barro Colorado Island for more than a decade studying the breeding and behavior patterns of a beautifully iridescent bird called the greater ani. Summers for the “Ani Team” are used for data collection. My days consisted of riding in a motorboat around a complex of Panama Canal peninsulas to locate ani nests and track their progress. I collected DNA from eggshell swabs and banded little peanut-looking ani chicks for future study. I’ve never been so surrounded by life as I was on Barro Colorado. It’s almost overwhelming to think of the many little critters scuttling around your feet, or the animal families living outside your door in the rainforest. Holding a baby ani in my palm helped me realize how fragile one life can be, which makes the abundance and diversity of life on Earth all the more wondrous.

Internship Year


Project Category

Biodiversity and Conservation


Riehl Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute- Barro Colorado Island, Panama


Christina Riehl, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Amanda Savagian, Ph.D. candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Meghan Strong, Research Specialist, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology