Project Title: The Effect of Capture Method on Microbial Abundance in Plumage of Eastern Yellow Robins (Eopsaltria australis)
Students: Larynn Cutshaw ’17 and Nadya Sotnychuk ’17
Mentor: Dr. Laura Tuhela-Reuning
Bird plumage is an ecosystem of microfauna that live in symbiosis with the avian host. Since most of these microbes are soil-dwelling Bacilli, it is assumed that birds with more soil contact will have higher microbial loads. While pursuing avian microbiology research in Victoria, Australia, we questioned if capture method influenced microbial loads and therefore skewed our data. We expected microbial abundance on birds captured with mist nets, a device used to catch birds in flight, will have lower abundance than those captured with snap traps, a tool which restrains the bird in the soil. We compared the abundance of Bacillus spp. on Eastern Yellow Robins (Eopsaltria australis) captured in both trap types. After statistical analyses, the data was found to significant overall (p = 0.004), but when comparing data from specific parts of the bird, capture method was only a significant factor on the back (p = 0.039; p = 0.055 and 0.125 on tail and venter, respectively). We assume that our methodologies have created a detection limit in our data, leaving our results inclusive to whether or not method of capture is a factor in microbial abundance.