09 05/09/2017

Meet Jill Vevers

Bird Curatorial Intern

Jill is studying a degree in Wildlife Conservation at Liverpool John Moores University. She heard about Chester Zoo’s internships when she was really young and so was extremely happy to be selected as our Bird Curatorial Intern.

As the Bird Curatorial Intern, Jill worked on various husbandry guidelines for the zoo and helped developing species fact sheets for Javan green magpie and Sumatran laughingthrush as part of the EAZA Silent Forest Campaign, which will focus on the Asian songbird crisis. She also collected data on food consumption of several bird species across the zoo and worked on section with the parrots and penguins keepers.

Jill Vevers
Jill did her one year research project on Sumatran laughingthrush

As part of her degree, Jill also had to carry out a research project during her year of placement and decided to look at the nesting behaviour of the Endangered Sumatran laughingthrush. Her aim was to investigate natural behaviours and husbandry techniques to look for implications on breeding success. Using remote cameras and recording independent variables daily, Jill recorded behavioural data from two pairs of laughingthrushes.

Now that her placement year is reaching an end, we asked Jill to reflect on her year at Chester Zoo.

Please could you tell us a bit more about your project?

“We wanted to conduct a general investigation because to my knowledge there has never been a comprehensive study of the Sumatran laughinghthrush breeding behaviour before. So far we found that the adult males incubate the eggs longer than the females. We did not find any difference in nest building behaviour depending on the weather and both the males and females spent equal times on nest-building activity. However, these results are only based on two pairs so the study would have to be replicated on a lot more individuals to get significant results.”

As the Curatorial Intern Jill also got to work on section with the Bird Team here feeding the cassowary

What was the biggest challenge you encountered during your research?

“Specific to my project, at the start of the breeding season we had some problems with birds abandoning nests. We think this might have been because some of the cameras may have been too close to the nests with birds potentially seeing their own reflections on the camera. So following these issues, we modified things slightly and now two pairs of birds have successfully reared chicks, which is really positive.

How is this year going to help you with your degree and future career?

“This year has been really fantastic and I have so much more confidence in my writing now! Before I was struggling to write scientific reports but now I am so confident doing it. This placement year also made me realise that I might want to go to a different career path to the one I thought before. Previously I wanted to do husbandry but doing the curatorial internship helped me realise that I really enjoy doing research so maybe I’d like to do that instead and do a masters.

“My take away message from this year would be that so much more research needs to be done with the fantastic birds we have here at Chester Zoo. We have so many critically endangered birds that don’t get enough publicity and that could have more research done on them -  that would be fantastic.

“I am taking away a lot from this year, I have learned so much more than I ever thought I would! I came in with some interest for birds but now I absolutely love them!

Sumatran laughingthrush

What is your best memory from this year at Chester Zoo?

“One of the highlights was seeing the first Javan green magpie chick of the year because I was the first person to see it on the camera and I’ll never forget that moment! I remember in the morning going and feeding the adults. In my head I knew there was a chick and when I went back there later I saw them feeding the chick and I was just ecstatic.”