Part 3: Birds, BEES, and Bloodsuckers

[color-box color=”blue”]Welcome to Part 3 of Birds, BEES, and Bloodsuckers!

Below, and in our next two Monday posts, discover why our Ornithology Department is now the second largest university-based bird collection in the world, read about Jason Weckstein‘s mission to help provide students with more hands-on research opportunities, find out why he started collecting the parasites along with his bird specimens, and learn what a day collecting birds in the Brazilian Amazon Basin looks like. For parts one and two, click here.[/color-box]

BEES: Guiding Future Researchers

Jason Weckstein is excited to work with students of all levels—from high school interns and Drexel co-ops to graduate and postdoctoral researchers—who will bring the collections to life by assisting with Academy research and conducting their own research projects. Formed as a result of the Academy’s affiliation with Drexel University, the rapidly developing BEES (Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science) Department provides Drexel students extraordinary access to the Academy’s scientific collections, as well as countless opportunities for hands-on training and research.

“We gain a great deal from having the vitality of undergraduate and graduate students conducting research in our labs,” he says. “Students keep the research programs moving at the forefront.”

Weckstein is bringing on Alan Fecchio, PhD, who is joining the Academy in January 2015 for a yearlong postdoctoral fellowship position sponsored by the Brazilian National Science Foundation. Fecchio specializes in studying avian malarial parasites—a research focus of Weckstein’s—and the two have already collaborated on several projects. Postdoctoral positions are an essential feature of the most prestigious ornithology programs in the country, and one of Weckstein’s goals is to make these positions a permanent part of the Academy’s research program.

In addition to working with graduate students, over the next few years Weckstein will be teaching ornithology courses to undergraduate students at Drexel, the first time the university will offer this course. He plans to bring his lessons to life with specimens and hands-on research experiences in the Academy’s labs and in the field. He hopes that these efforts further establish the Academy’s ornithology program as one of the most attractive to the next generation of researchers interested in ornithology and evolutionary biology.

This article by Mary Alice Hartsock originally appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of Academy Frontiers.

[color-box color=”blue”]For parts one and two, click here.[/color-box]

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