Student Research Profile: Erika Thalman and Emily Castellanos

Emily and Erika collaborated with Dr. Floyd Hayes on a study of two bird species native to Paraguay.

Emily and Erika collaborated with Dr. Floyd Hayes on a study of two bird species native to Paraguay.

Meet Erika Thalman and Emily Castellanos, both junior biology majors. Last summer, they conducted research in various locations in the South American country of Paraguay. After PUC, Erika plans to go into the field of marine biology and eventually obtain a master’s degree, while Emily plans to go to veterinary school and become a wildlife veterinarian. 

Tell us about your research.

 We participated in a research project led by Dr. Hayes where we studied the calls of two birds, the Chaco nothura and the spotted nothura. We then compared the two birds calls to see how similar their call songs were and whether this suggest whether they could be the same or different species. In the field research portion we helped scout for the birds and recorded data and the field conditions while our guide operated the bird call recording equipment. Once we got back to school we edited the bird calls and analyzed the call sonograms to compare the vocal differences.

What did you learn during your research?

Erika: Before this trip I didn’t realize how much communication and collaboration with others takes place before, during, and after a project. I also learned it’s important to have a backup plan for a project in case something doesn’t go according to the original plan, such as if the research subjects are difficult to find or if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Emily: Following a lot of what Erika said, I also learned how to use previously recorded bird calls to initiate a response from a desired species as well as how much planning it takes before you can actually execute the methods for research.

How did PUC help prepare you for this experience?

Erika: Biological Foundations 113 lab really helped prepare me for research because it introduced me in how to design and carry out a research experiment and was reinforced by the Introduction to Research Methods course.

Emily: The class that really helped in preparing me for this trip was Introduction to Research Methods as it taught me how to construct and write about a research topic I make up myself. Other courses that really enhanced my experience were Ecology because it taught me various factors about animal distribution as well as environmental factors and Vertebrate Biology because of the bird section that is during the class.

To learn more about biology at PUC, visit the department of biology website

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