Beached Birds

Teaching collection: on the road

A few years ago, science writer Eric Wagner snagged a guest writer spot on our blog to take readers behind the scenes with our beached bird teaching collection. He dove into the who, what, where, why, and how of COASST’s specimen collection, and you can read all about it here!

Tufted Puffin under a UV light, showing an illuminated bill sheath!

Today we’d like to share another unique glimpse into a day in the life of a COASST-collected marine bird. While many of our COASST beached bird surveyors are familiar with the teaching collection as it travels with COASST staff to training workshops and presentations, our birds sometimes also go on a quick vacation with a program partner.

Last month, a few lucky birds traveled to the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) at Everett Community College. The unique “early college” ORCA program offers training for high school students who can simultaneously earn college credits – in this case, in marine biology. In fact, many ORCA students graduate from high school with a bonus associates degree!

Instructor Hannah Toutonghi was putting together the ultimate ‘seabird lab’ for her marine biology students, when she started looking for a teaching collection that would enable her students to get some hands on experience with marine birds. This year, COASST’s marine bird collection was the star of the show! Students examined bird bills under a black light and lined up wings and feet for measurement comparisons. They also took time to compare form and function while composing scientific drawings of the wings, bills, and feet from the COASST collection.

“Students explored the diverse adaptations of seabirds by examining differences in wing
shapes, feet function, and bill structure, enhancing their understanding of how these
birds thrive in the open ocean. The Tufted Puffin and Black-footed Albatross specimens
were particularly valuable, providing students with close-up experiences of two birds
with unique structures and life history, especially regarding their bills.”

Hannah Toutonghi

Thanks to Hannah and her students for showing off some of the ways our cool seabird collection can help out in the classroom!

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