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Anne Logie - Terrestrial Animal Ecology Lab

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Some birds carry on their feathers a wide variety of bacteria and some of these bacteria contribute to the degradation of the bird's feathers. These microbial communities of feather degrading bacteria, are studied by collecting feathers from different species of birds and analyzing the bacteria on the feathers using culture based and culture-independent (e.g., amplicon length heterogeneity fingerprinting) laboratory methods. The bacteria found on avian plumage and methods used to quantify and identify these microorganisms is very sensitive to contamination from other microorganisms and this project determines whether hand disinfectant needs to be applied before collecting bird feather samples when conducting research with feather degrading bacteria. The overall objective of this study was to develop proper techniques to collect bird feather samples when working with feather degrading bacteria. The project determines whether the bacteria normally present on human hands affects the bacteria on the bird feathers collected out in the field by obtaining feathers using three different handling techniques: 1) handling individual birds without prior disinfection of hands, 2) handling individual birds with disinfected hands using store-bought hand sanitizer, and 3) handling individual birds with disinfected hands using quaternary disinfectant. Using laboratory techniques amplicon length heterogeneity fingerprinting to quantify and identify feather bacteria, we wanted to determine which method prevented contamination of the microbial community most effectively. Unfortunately the lab work took longer than expected and no conclusions can be made, but this research gave me a broad basis and understanding in molecular ecology and field work. After I graduate from the University of Maryland Baltimore County I plan to pursue a graduate degree in ecology, behavioral and evolutionary studies.