Skip to content

Seabirds’ Adaptions to Marine Life

Our first activity  to better explain seabirds’ adaptions to marine life, was to dress a volunteer student as an albatross. The costume consisted of a raincoat to illustrate waterproof plumage, pink flippers to discuss their webbed feet, a mask with an albatross beak to show their salt glands, and articulated wings to show the incredible wingspan of albatrosses (see slideshow). Second, animal personality is the topic of our ongoing scientific research program and we wanted to show students that animals, alike humans, have different personalities. To do so, we designed a personality test (7 questions) to determine the personality of students. Based on their answers, we divided the classrooms into shy and bold groups (each student received a personality-specific sticker; see slideshow).

After this lecture, we had three hand-on projects. With the first hand-on project, students learned about wingspan and their relative wingspan compared to the wandering albatross. We printed a real size picture of an albatross spreading its wing (11 feet) for comparison. Students were able to draw their own wingspan on paper, measure it, and compared it to the wandering albatross (see slideshow). They calculated the ratio of their wingspan on that of the wandering albatross, and discussed the result by comparing the average, mean and variability of this ratio within the class.

With the second hand-on project, students learned about biologging and animal tagging in the wild (how it works, what kind of information we can get from those devices, and how we attach tags to live animals). Students could see and handle the tags and assist in a demonstration of their functioning. The activity was complemented by showing some of our personal videos of animal tagging in the wild.

With the last hand-on project, students learned about coordinates and map, individual differences, and incidental by-catch. We designed a battleship game, where students had to draw their coordinates, which were personality or sex  specific. The assumption was that bolder birds have a higher propensity to approach fishing vessels to get food, but at the same time become more vulnerable to fishery by-catch compared to shyer birds. The map was made in a way that areas around boats were riskier, but more rewarding in terms of food, compared to other areas. Bolder birds (students) had higher probability of having coordinated falling in those higher risk areas. For each coordinate, students had to spin a wheel that would determine if they survived or were caught by a boat, and if they survived how many fish they captured. At the end of the game, we counted how many students were in each group (bold or shy), how many were caught incidentally by fishery and how many fish they captured.