Zachariah Smart, 2019, Undeclared

This summer, I worked as a field assistant to Professor Christie Riehl, who has been studying the reproductive biology of the Greater Ani (a member of the cuckoo family) in Panama since 2005. My particular focus was on assessing the effects of El Niño conditions on the birds’ behavior and reproductive success. Through the project, I gained experience handling eggs and nestlings, and learned how to take DNA swabs and blood samples. Working from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Island facility, I was also exposed to all of the other research taking place there. Getting to engage with so many biologists, as well as work one on one with Professor Riehl was an amazing experience and has made me a better student, and hopefully a better scientist. I emerged from the summer tremendously excited to pursue my interest in evolutionary biology further.