Greetings from College of the Holy Cross,
After only four weeks of hard work in Claessens lab this summer, we are only 100 elements away from our goal! The database now holds 300 elements from 116 species. Today we uploaded a new species, the Brown-Headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater). An interesting detail of the Brown-headed Cowbird is that it is a brood parasite. This means that it lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, letting the deceived birds bear the burden of raising the young. Check out the Brown-Headed Cowbird in action– http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Brown-headed_Cowbird/videos . Now that the element models have been scanned, cleaned and uploaded, the bones are ready to be returned to the Yale Peabody Museum. A trip is scheduled for this upcoming Monday. Today, Ariana Masi and Maggie Johnson started to work on the educational skeletal model that is soon to be published on the database. The educational model of the bird skeleton will be an interactive tool with associated descriptions of the skeletal elements. On Thursdays, we have a Journal Club where we read and discuss either a journal article or chapters from the Morphometrics course. This week we are learning about Procrustes Superimpositions and shape transformations. Morphometrics is used to characterize organismal form by shape and size and quantify variation within and amongst species. In the Claessens lab, the senior research projects will employ the use of these studies in morphometrics for analyzing data.
In our continuing expansion of the Aves3d database, we are now working on the loan of material from the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Stay tuned for the educational model and visit www.Aves3d.org as we strive to reach our goal of 400 elements by the end of the Summer Research Program!
Until next time,
Stephanie John and Ariana Masi