Third Week

Third Week

This week was all about ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy (UV-vis) with zebra finch feathers. Feathers have colors that are visible to us (e.g., bluebird feathers are blue), but birds are capable of seeing colors that humans cannot. Using a spectrometer, we can measure the reflectance of light across all wavelengths visible to birds. Birds can see ultraviolet light that is reflected off of feathers that appear to be one plain color. We used zebra finch left primaries (LP1s) to assess color quality versus CORT and mercury content.

Each feather was measured and divided into quarters. Reflectance across 300-700 nm was measured between each quarter and at 2 mm from the distal end. This was performed in duplicate, bringing the total to 8 scans per feather. We scanned the melanistic side of the tailing edge so that melanin content could also be estimated.

There were a lot of feathers. This took a long time. Additionally, the scans were all text files that I had to copy into Excel, which took literally 11 hours of work. The spectrometer could only operate on an ancient computer. The laptop (which we named Barney because of the purple color) asked if I wanted to use a dial-up connection. It was quite an experience.

I am, however, grateful to be learning more about spectroscopy. It is a skill that I will more than likely use again as I continue with my science education.