Meat Camp!

Written by: Emily Weigel

Primary Source:  Choice Words with @Choosy_Female

Summer field season is upon us, and our first stop: Meat Camp!

As strange as it sounds, this isn’t a summer camp of sorts, but rather the small North Carolina town where some adorable young bluebirds, and their tiny parasites, can be found.

Above and to the left, you can see a nest box with baby birds cozy in their nest. And on the right, a few baby bluebirds in hand ( about ~12-14 days), one with a tiny brown-red parasite along its leg (look just to the right of the ring finger on the hand holding the chicks).

That tiny brown parasite will feed on the blood of the baby bluebird until the bird is about ready to fledge. At that point, the parasite pops off the bird, falls down into the nest, and continues its development.

Like many insects, they’ll go through a bunch of stages, from worm-like, to pill-like, to an eventual adult. And if they’re female, they’ll grow up to look for a new bluebird nest in which to raise their parasitic young.

This summer, we’ll be working in several locations, from Georgia, to North Carolina, to New York, to figure out just where these parasites like to hang out and what makes them ‘tick’ (see what I did there?) :) Stay tuned for more!

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Emily Weigel
Emily Weigel (@Choosy_Female) is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Zoology and in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program at Michigan State University. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a focus on interdisciplinary research from the Georgia Institute of Technology. At MSU, Weigel conducts research in the lab of Dr. Jenny Boughman and is affiliated with the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. Her dissertation research focuses on how female choice and investment interact with male mating strategies. Additionally, Weigel’s education research asks how and why a background in genetics affects student performance in evolutionary biology. When not researching, Weigel enjoys playing soccer, surfing Netflix, and promoting STEM in the community.
Emily Weigel

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