After my exam, I jumped (unfortunately) into a busy spring term of teaching a new class (Field Sampling in Fisheries and Wildlife), finishing my final two teaching courses, and advising two undergraduate research students, all while trying to apply for an EPA STAR fellowship again and analyze data for my dissertation. I have to say the best part of the term was working with the undergrads! Danielle and Katie both made my job easy! Even in my busy and frantic state, both students came up with really interesting projects on their own based around our "dead bird project" (terrible name which has apparently stuck). This project has grown from our collective curiosity about what mercury concentrations in feathers mean for songbirds. In seabirds, many researchers use feathers as a proxy for body burden of mercury, but no one has tested whether this also applies to songbirds. Working with a variety of collaborators, we have acquired specimens of songbirds where we can sample all feathers to see how feather tracts compare in mercury concentrations (something we can't do in live-caught birds, leading to the "dead bird project" moniker). Katie and Danielle both decided to work within the thrush specimens that we have acquired and determine how mercury concentrations vary between primary and body feathers. Katie and Danielle are going to continue their projects in the fall, but have summarized their data to include in guest blog posts to follow. I'm so excited to see how this will turn out! Hooray for little bursts of fun science in the middle of a long PhD.