Navigation Menu+

Are museum collections of birds biased by flocking behavior in species?


The number of specimens of any species collected at any location is known to be influenced by the size of the organism, gender, local abundance, spatial and temporal abundance, and collection method. Another potential but unstudied bias, may be whether the species is flocking or solitary/pair living. Flocking birds may be more conspicuous to collectors, be in close proximity to each other, and travel as a group making it possible for several individuals to be collected together with standard collection methods (firearms, traps, mistnets). On the other hand, fewer individuals of solitary or pair-living birds may be collected from a location because they may be less conspicuous, and because only one or two individuals may be collected at one capture event.

Through this virtual internship students will use digitized collection records of all North American passerines (~300 species) available on online databases such as and to test whether specimens of flocking birds are consistently more numerous per locality than pair-living birds. This study seeks to document the amount of bias in bird collections due to behavior of birds and has not been done before. Knowing if this bias is real will help researchers fill gaps in future research expeditions and highlight a potential bias to be aware of when conducting research in museum collections.

PREREQUISITES & REQUIREMENTS: Computer and internet access

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The intern will be trained in downloading and collating an online dataset, literature search, comparative statistical analysis techniques in R programming language, manuscript preparation and scientific writing.

TIME REQUIREMENTS: Approximately 15 hours per week

HOW TO APPLY: Interested students should provide a complete and current resume/cv; a brief cover letter explaining their qualifications, reason for interest in the internship, learning objectives for the virtual internship project; and the contact information for three professional references. Please assemble all materials into a single document and include your last name in the file name. Send the document as an attachment via email to the contact listed below.


Sahas Barve