Dissertation diaries: Louise on penguins and happy feet!

Categories and tags:
Animal Biology

A key part of our bioscience degrees is the final year dissertation project – an excellent opportunity to get involved in research. Here. Louise writes about her project…

My project was all about Penguins! I researched the cause of bumblefoot; an inflammatory skin disease, similar to a blister, which occurs on the sole of the penguin’s foot. Should the ulcers become infected, the birds are affected by septicaemia, chronic lameness and in severe cases it can be fatal. My study looked at the relationship between substrate usage (where they spend their time) and the onset of the disease. By reviewing the penguin’s use of different substrates and their activity throughout the day: or in other words, do active penguins have happier, healthier feet?!

Coming up with a dissertation project was really hard; especially when there so much cool science to choose from! I knew I wanted to study exotic animals and seeing as my supervisor Anne Goodenough has links with West Midlands Safari Park, this wasn’t too difficult to achieve. Playing to your academic strengths is a sure-fire way of succeeding with your dissertation but most importantly you’ve got to be interested in what it is you’re studying – otherwise it’s going to be a very long year. Bumblefoot is a prevalent condition not only in penguin colonies but also for chickens, flamingos and raptors in captivity and knowing that my research will have significance in the field whatever the results was highly motivating for me.

There were good and bad days! The first 4 months were spent collecting data at West Midlands Safari Park which was (for the most part) good fun. I especially enjoyed having access to the park during the closed season and it was amazing to see how drastically the penguin’s activity level dropped when they had no visitors to interact with. Since finishing data collection in January it was hard to get motivated to actually write anything, but as deadline day drew closer I got back into the swing of it again; reading more papers or even just making notes of topics to include in each section and slowly I saw my project coming together.
Louise Chiverton, Animal Biology

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