As many academic institutions look towards an unprecedented fall semester, educators across the world are searching for agile ways to engage their students both virtually and in-person, and to help them build practical skills and experiences.
Birds of the World is working with several educators and institutions to help students produce revisions of species accounts. Revising an account can be a fantastic way to get students to apply practical skills like literature searches and scientific writing to something tangible; and to get them thinking, and publishing, like an ornithologist.
Aiman Raza is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and has been working with Dr. Kevin Omland on the critically endangered Bahama Orioles (Icterus northropi). Recently, Aiman led a team of authors on revisions to the Bahama Oriole species account in Birds of the World, and in this blog post, she discusses her work and how she became involved in this project.
My name is Aiman Raza and I will be a junior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I am majoring in biological sciences with a minor in environmental science. I have been an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Kevin Omland’s lab for about a year now studying the critically endangered Bahama Oriole.
When I was a freshman, I attended the biology department open house and heard about some of the research undergraduates were involved in. The work that stood out to me the most was the Bahama Oriole Project which Dr. Omland runs along with Shelley Cant from the Bahamas National Trust. I was a little apprehensive about approaching a professor as a freshman, so I was excited to see that Dr. Omland was teaching the Ecology and Evolution course I was enrolled in for the spring. I made an effort to introduce myself to Dr. Omland and express my interest in his research. I became an undergraduate research assistant in the fall of 2019 and have worked on a couple of projects since then.
I have researched hurricane history in the Bahamas to see if past storms possibly had an impact on extirpating the Bahama Oriole population on Abaco island. I worked on writing the Wikipedia entry for the Hispaniolan Oriole and Bahama Oriole. I have recently finished revising the Bahama Oriole species account on Birds of the World. I applied to the Bahama Oriole Project for the summer of 2020, but that was unfortunately canceled. I am hoping to go next summer, and I am curious to study the song of this critically endangered oriole to analyze age-specific bird song to discover whether there is a difference in song rates between age classes. Currently, I am assisting Ph.D. student Michelle Moyer with her analysis of song rate differences in the local Orchard Oriole.
Being part of a research lab on campus has helped me grow both personally and academically. I am excited by the work we do and hope to do a research project involving fieldwork of my own. As a minority woman, I want to encourage diversity and inclusion in the sciences, especially ecology and wildlife conservation. I am currently the president of UMBC Greenpeace, an environmental activism organization focused on policy change. I am passionate about birds and wildlife and am pleased with having many opportunities to explore my interests at UMBC.
Thank you, Aiman, Birds of the World is pleased to have your assistance with these revisions!