Research Background

I received my undergraduate degree from Willamette University in 2009 with a major in biology.  As an undergraduate my thesis project focused on interspecific recognition between wild crows and friendly humans, which was a spin off of Dr. John Marzluff’s previous work.   Since graduating my research background has diversified, giving me a wide net of ideas and experiences to pull from as I move my corvid research forward.   Here are some highlights from projects I’ve most enjoyed working on.  My full CV can be found here: SWIFT 2015 CV .

In 2009 I traveled to New South Wales, Australia to participate in a sexual selection study on Satin bowerbirds through the Borgia lab at University of Maryland.  The field work was demanding, requiring twice daily data collection on our assigned bowers with only a half day exception once a week.   My primary responsibilities were maintaining camera equipment, recording bower data such as quality measurements and number and type of decorations, and conducting 4-hour observation periods to monitor bird activity.  Overall it was a great first field experience and exposed me to the fascinating field of sexual selection.


In the off season of 2011 I acted as the museum curator at my Alma Mater, Willamette University.  What started off as a side project cleaning drawers out, quickly became a full time 9 month position to recatalog, label and often identify specimens.   At the end of the project I was proud to have reorganized the collection into a functioning museum accessible to faculty and the community.  It was a great opportunity to give back to my undergraduate institution and explore the different research possibilities natural history museums offer.


Just before entering graduate school I participated in a breeding success survey of Streaked-horned larks in Oregon.  This position provided great experience nest searching and working with telemetry units, and furthered my knowledge of using cameras in a field setting.  What was perhaps most valuable to me, however, was the opportunity to work with a threatened species and get a sense of the bureaucratic process that goes into getting a species listed.

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One response to “Research Background

  1. Michelle Ewens

    Hi, I live in the Portland Oregon area. Are looking for volunteer research assistants?

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