Story posted April 02, 2010
Evan Graff '11, a biology major, spent two full months on the Bowdoin Scientific Station (BSS) at Kent Island last summer as a research fellow. He was one of eight Bowdoin students—five researchers and three artists—who were part of the BSS community. He shares details of his experience in the latest Kent Island Annual Report.
For my summer research project, I studied Kent Islandís population of savannah sparrows. With the help of [Biology Professor] Nat Wheelwright, I decided to focus my research on egg characteristics, including length, shape, volume, and coloration.
The latest Annual Report from the Bowdoin Scientific Station at Kent Island features photos and stories from a year of interdisciplinary research and art work that brought together Bowdoin students and faculty with researchers and students from around the country. Read it online.
My study is designed to investigate whether these traits are genetically determined or whether they are influenced by the characteristics of the surrounding habitat or by their diet. To do this, I will look for patterns within clutches, between first and second clutches from the same parents, by geographic location, and by relatedness of females. I also will look for any relationship between the amount of variation in these characteristics and a femaleís seasonal breeding history.
In the past, it has been difficult to study savannah sparrow eggs because they are extremely fragile. To avoid damaging eggs, I took all of my measurements photographically. I photographed the eggs with a gray color standard and a ruler for use as a length reference. To keep light conditions consistent, I placed the tray and camera inside a dark box that Marko [Murray, caretaker and research assistant] adapted for this purpose. I also recorded details on nest type, nest orientation, and local habitat. I will be analyzing my data back on campus during the coming year.
I love photography in general, so when I wasnít doing sparrow work, I also took time to create images that capture the unique feel of Kent Island. It was incredible to see how many different settings and subjects exist on an island of this size. Iím really looking forward to sharing the wonder of this island with those who have never visited. The experience of intensive scientific inquiry, combined with the strong community atmosphere and nature of life on Kent Island, has made this summer one that I will treasure for years to come.