One of the most exciting opportunities we have being an intern is when you’re a level 2 intern or higher you get to work with a biologist at the Academy. I have the chance to work with Vicki McCloskey, a biologist who specializes in taking care for birds. Every Thursday and Friday, I meet my biologist at 7 o’clock in the morning. We walk over to the kitchen and get food for the birds in the rain forest, including the parrots, are in the rain forest and the raptors out in the east garden. Once we’ve collected all of our food we head over to the rainforest. Three different feeding stations have to be set up for the birds along with two feeding stations filled with nectar for the butterlfies. While we are doing all of this we have to keep a keen eye out and mark down all the birds we spot. There are over 30 birds in the rainforest and we have to eventually spot all of them. We mark down the birds we don’t see. After everything in the rain forest is taken care of, we head over to the raptors while being fully equipped with some tasty rodents. Once in the aviary with the three Turkey Vultures just roaming around, I have to clean the sleeping quarters of the loose feathers that might have fallen off during the night.
The week of New Intern Orientation, or the first week of the summer semester, is not only exciting for the new interns, but for the “seasoned” interns as well. The whole week was filled with engaging trainings for all of us ranging from field work to even the Academy’s history.
The next training day was all about science in general and conducting science. It started with a training led by Eric, Careers in Science Manager, who taught us all about science- what it is and how it is executed -to introduce everybody to the concept of “conducting science” and the multiple processes within. Our definition of science is “the process through which knowledge of the natural world is built, and and also the knowledge itself. Science relies on the testing of ideas with empirical evidence gathered form the natural world.”
A vital part of “conducting science” is taking field notes so Jack Dumbacher, Chairman and Assistant Curator of the Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy, generously come in to talk to us about taking field notes and the importance of it. We ended the day about field work and conducting science by actually going out to do some field work, we monitor Pacific Mole crabs (sp. Emerita analoga) down in Ocean Beach.
The third training day was all about Invertebrate Zoology. Maya Walton, assistant manager of the program revealed the newly completed outreach station called Human Impacts on Corals. Interns Jasmine, Dina, and Noelani taught the station to us the same way they would teach the middle school students, so we can get a feel of how the station works.
All in all we were super excited to start working with these twelve new interns and are ecstatic to start the year with such great training topics.
Last training, in honor of the 150th anniversary reading of Darwin and Wallace’s letters, the interns received an eye-opening training about evolution. I know I didn’t understand it very well before this training. But afterwards the topic seemed much more interesting, and even fun.
Evolution is the foundational theory of biology, nothing in biology makes sense without evolution. The main theme of the training was to explain exactly what evolution was, and the scientific discoveries which led up to Darwin’s theory of Natural selection. Evolution was a process which had been observed years before Darwin theorized how animals and their populations changed over time. Darwin’s theory of natural selection explained why this happened. Even if his theory had never been discovered, scientists would have continued to study evolution, to figure out why this vital process happens.
We did many different activities which showed variation as a result of Natural selection. We examined bell peppers and counted the number of seeds to see the difference among individuals in the same species. We also looked at Cowry shells, and ladybugs to do the same.
This felt important to me, because I feel there is a lot of misinformation about evolution floating around, and most of the public doesn’t have a very good idea of what it is. I sure didn’t.
Associate Curator Charles Griswold dedicated his Monday afternoon to teach interns about the Academy’s Entomology collection which consists of 20,000,000 specimens and nearly 500,000 species. Dr. Griswold specializes in arachnids and taught interns about various webs spun by different species of spiders. By making sense of spider webs, we can learn much about the behavioral evolution of spiders.
As interns headed out to do some field work, Dr. Griswold demonstrated three different collecting techniques using corn starch puffers, beating sheets, and sifters.
Corn starch puffers are small bulb pipettes that blow small amounts of powdered corn starch to help expose and detect spider webs. Beating sheets are made up of heavy duty cloth held together by two wooden sticks. They are used primarily for trees, branches, and bushes to help shake insects out for collection. Sifters are used for sifting out insects hiding in dirt and fallen leaves on the ground.