The PBMS is very grateful to Catherine Ramsay who has been working with us for 4 weeks as a volunteer. This has provided Catherine with experience of a research environment.
Catherine writes “In June I had the fortunate experience of doing 4 weeks of work placement with the PBMS, having just finished my first year studying zoology at the University of Liverpool. I wanted to spend the start of my summer gaining some experience and knowledge on research and its applications in the ‘real world’. Throughout my time at PBMS I assisted in the extensive process that goes into sampling the birds and eggs, from logging them in when they first to arrive, to feeding the Dermestes maculatus beetles that clean the femur bones that are retained as part of the long-term PBMS tissue archive.
Up until now my knowledge on bird anatomy was limited to the sketches of pigeon skeletons I had seen in lectures, so it really was a rare opportunity to study these birds of prey first hand. Despite being quite squeamish, the highlights of my time at PBMS include observing a half developed peregrine chick in a failed egg and finding 4 whole vole carcasses whilst rummaging through the gizzard contents of a barn owl. I learnt skills such as how to estimate the age of a bird using indicators on the feathers, and completed some of my own post mortems. These included a buzzard which was suspected to have been shot, and a sparrowhawk which had suffered from Trichomonosis (frounce), a disease caused by parasite which forms yellow tumours in the buccal cavity and crop and which essentially starves the bird to death.
This experience opened my eyes to many aspects that I don’t primarily think about when I see a live bird of prey. Through working with the PBMS I feel I have gained a much deeper understanding of issues related to pollution and wildlife, something many people don’t get to experience.”