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[Parasitology] Swift volunteer helpers needed

Walker, Mark via parasite%40net.bio.net (by walker from biologie.uni-siegen.de)
Mon Nov 12 09:18:11 EST 2007


I wonder if you could help me by posting the following message to relevant students within your department. Thank you!

Mark Walker

Wanted: Biology Fieldwork Volunteer
What: To help take measurements from swift nestlings.

When: June, July 2008.

Where: The Biggesee reservoir by the town of Olpe, Germany.

For whom: Mark Walker, doctorate student at the University of Siegen, Germany.

Close to the German town of Olpe a highway bridge spans the Bigge reservoir. Swifts have discovered they can nest in this bridge by flying through small holes which lead into an enclosed walkway underneath the bridge. 

I am studying this colony for my doctorate. Last year there were 40 nests, with over 70 nestlings. Swifts arrive in late April, begin incubating in May and the young hatch in mid-June. By the end of July the nestlings are fully grown and ready to leave the nest. This means I have only a short time period in which to collect all the data I need.

I measure and weigh the chicks each day. This takes a considerably amount of time. I also want to collect many other types of data, for example the number of parasites present at the colony and at each nest, the abundance of insects flying around the bridge, etc.

I am not able to do everything on my own; I simply do not have enough time. So therefore I am asking for a volunteer willing to help me for a few weeks on this project.


The project would be ideally suited for someone studying biology or a related subject and who would like to gain some practical field work experience. It may also be possible to use the work as part of a final year project or thesis for an undergraduate course of study; better than doing a library based project!

The working conditions can, however, be unpleasant. Within the bridge it is dark and noisy and dirty. It can often be cold. The work involves handling wild birds and nestlings and inevitably coming into contact with their faeces. The work may also involve handling dead nestlings where they may occur. The swifts carry some unpleasant parasites which will readily crawl onto you and into your hair.

During the nestlings season the work involves being within the bridge for several hours a day at least. Careful measurements are taken and this requires concentration and discipline and the ability to work in a methodical scientific manner. 

Therefore I am looking for someone who can:
Work in the dark.
Is not scared of insects.
Is able to handle wild birds.
Someone of gentle and quiet disposition
Is happy to get dirty and touch unpleasant things.
Is able to work accurately and carefully for several hours at a stretch.
Most importantly: Someone who is friendly and happy, and able to take the work seriously, but not too seriously. 

I am a native English speaker. Work can be in English or German as you prefer.

What can I offer in return:

I can offer the following in return:

Experience of conducting real field work on a real scientific project. The project offers the chance to learn a number of skills including, how to work with wild birds, take blood samples from them, how to measure them accurately, etc. I am still learning myself!

The chance to visit a nice place, where maybe you have never been. The Bigge reservoir is a very picturesque region, and a local tourist attraction.

As mentioned I would be happy if someone wanted to use their work on this project towards a thesis or final year project, as long as this did not coincide with what I was planning to do. I would be happy to let someone use data I have already collected from the previous year. I would also be more than happy if someone wanted to do something else of their own design; there are so many possibilities here. I can offer suggestions.

Practical aspects:

There would be no accommodation costs.

Last summer I camped for much of the summer season actually at the reservoir. This was at a nearby camp site. Although I live in almost commuting distance to the bridge this was simply the most practical thing for me to do because I had so much to do. Whether I would camp or remain at home for the coming season I do not know. 

I would of course cover any camping costs incurred. I have an apartment in the nearby town of Siegen and although a tight squeeze, you are welcome to stay here at no cost to yourself. 

I can cover travel costs to and from Siegen and the study site.

Although I can't offer a wage I would try to keep your costs as low as possible!


If you are interested or have any questions contact me in the first instance by email:

walker from biologie.uni-siegen.de

Thanks! Mark

Mark David Walker
Biology Research Assistant 
Centre for Evolutionary Ecology and Biology
Fachbereich Chemie-Biologie
Universität Siegen
Adolf Reichwein Str. 2
57068 Siegen
+49 (0)271-740-2758

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