Building research skills through “royal” volunteer opportunity

July 5, 2019 | Science


One of my first experiences as a volunteer at the Royal Alberta Museum had me up at 2:30 in the morning in April searching for sharp-tailed grouse at a nature reserve in Barrhead. We trekked out to a set of coordinates to look for leks (the sites where grouse do most of their activity, like their mating dance). We were 60 feet away from an active lek where we saw the males dancing. They spread their wings out and basically just run around in circles making a really interesting clicking sound. It's quite a show.

Not only was I gathering data, but I was also getting a field work opportunity I might not have had otherwise. My supervisor said it was the first year we didn't have to snowshoe or trek through mud to get to the leks. We got really lucky.

When I came to MacEwan, I wanted to get in, get a degree and get out. I knew I wanted to do something in biology or conservation, but I had no real plans. But I’m the kind of person who's going to open every door in front of me. In the last year, my profs gave me opportunities to do independent research and that opened up so many more doors, like getting a paper published and volunteering at RAM. I realized that I want to pursue a master's degree in a couple of years, and volunteering has expanded my range of skills and knowledge.

Not everybody gets to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in a museum. I feel so lucky to be here and it all started with a field trip we took in a senior-level zoology class at MacEwan. We saw a preserved bird that was 150 years old and bird specimens that I had never seen before. We also learned that there's a lot of work to be done and that the museum is always looking for volunteers. I only wish I had known about that two years earlier!

To go from MacEwan to the Royal Alberta Museum is such a nice transition. I feel like I'm still learning — I'm just moving from textbooks to hands-on research.

— Hasanna Kucher, Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences alum ('19)

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