Spectrometer Data Collection

Hello again!  I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer filled with exciting research opportunities.  As it’s been a while since my last post (though my next one will be coming up very shortly)  I wanted to give everyone a refresher on my research this summer and then I’ll detail my data collection.  I’m in Dr. Cristol’s lab working on the effects of differential timing and duration of mercury exposure on beak redness in zebra finches.  What this means is that I use a device called a spectrometer to measure the reflected color from the beaks of our zebra finch colony.

There are four different treatment groups that I’m studying.  The first is exposed to mercury during their first 50 days of life, but not the second.  The second group is exposed only during their second fifty days of life, the third is exposed for their first hundred days, and the fourth isn’t exposed to mercury at all.

I finished my data collection a few weeks ago, but to get my data I used a portable spectrometer, an OceanOptics USB2000 spectrometer, to gather my data.  The spectrometer also included a PX-2 light source and what I’m going to call a mounting block.  This mounting block has two holes in it, one for measuring diffuse reflectance at a 45º angle of incidence and one for measuring spectral reflectance at a 90º angle of incidence.  I used the 90º hole for spectral reflectance.  By putting the probe of my spectrometer in either hole I could tighten a screw and maintain a constant distance from the opening.  The opening is also the perfect size for a zebra finch’s beak.

To gather my data I set up the spectrometer, and it’s associated program, inserted the zebra finch’s beak into the opening of my mounting block, hit scan et voila!  The spectrometer and the program work together to send a beam of light out from the probe and then the probe measures how much of each wavelength of light is reflected.  This information is then sent off to the computer and the program where it gets translated into a graph and a .ird file that I can save and work with in the future.  I took three scans for every bird, and then released them back into their cages when I was done.  No zebra finches were harmed in the collection of my data.

Over the course of the summer I measured the beak redness of every male zebra finch that fits into the four treatment groups in our zebra finch colony, which comes out to over 120 birds.  I’ll follow up shortly with a post about the next steps towards data analysis and some problems that I encountered along the way.

-Rebecca Gilson