Andrew Ely ’19 (Louisville, Kentucky) recently concluded a summer internship with Uppsala University Professor of Evolutionary Biology Lars Gustafsson in Gotland, Sweden, which is the largest island in Sweden and sits in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
Ely assisted in a long-term evolutionary fitness study of Collared Flycatcher breeding.
“I regularly sampled individual birds using nest box traps and mist-nets,” Ely said. “I would take morphological measurements such as mass, wing length, tarsus length, white patch primary wing lengths and others.”
In addition, Ely worked with chicks and hatchlings. He would spend about 10 hours every day in the temperate summer forests of Gotland. He said the location of the island is significant because it serves as a popular rest-stop location for birds migrating to Scandinavia from the Middle East, Africa and Southern Europe.
“Since childhood, I have been a lover of nature and especially of birds,” Ely said. “A couple of years ago, I had the realization that I wanted to pursue a career involving evolutionary biology. Being a passionate birder, participating in a bird-focused project within evolutionary biology made sense. This opportunity aligned perfectly with my individual interest and aspirations.”
Ely worked with professors from Uppsala University in Sweden and Jagiellonian University in Poland.
“There were two houses which made up the field site,” he said. “Our field team was comprised of a diverse assortment of individuals who came from areas throughout Europe. I lived with Finnish, English, Dutch and French colleagues, and the alternate household was made up of Spanish and Polish individuals. I was the youngest worker at the project for the majority of my stay, until I was joined by a fellow American from Wellesley College.”
As a biology major, his courses and guidance from professors allowed him to contribute much more to this project in terms of knowledge and experience.
“Most importantly, the undergraduate research experience I have completed and am completing at Centre provided me with necessary qualifications to pursue this opportunity,” he added.
Ely said this internship opportunity and living abroad helped instill a sense to him that the world is much larger than the ‘Centre bubble,’ and much larger than Kentucky or the U.S.
“I met many individuals and mentors while abroad, all of whom I have remained in contact with and will continue to seek guidance from,” he continued. “I was introduced to multiple subfields of biology that I had not been exposed to. These subfields, such as immunoecology, have absolutely piqued my interest, and I have been researching their fields heavily.”
Through this experience, he has formed lifelong connections and numerous invaluable contacts who can assist him in his future career.
After Centre, Ely will pursue an advanced degree within the realm of evolutionary biology. He said he hopes to continue his education and obtain a Ph.D.
by Kerry Steinhofer
July 26, 2018