Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Olivia Cavalluzzi

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Winter 2022

Research Project: Avian Scavenger Succession at Ungulate Carcasses in Washington State

Project Description: Avian scavengers perform a critical ecosystem service by breaking down dead and decaying matter and cycling it back through food webs. This study provides novel information on avian scavenger dynamics and the roles of competition, tolerance, and sociality in avian scavenger communities. Given scavenging dynamics change throughout the life of a carcass, conserving the full breadth of avian scavenger diversity is important if we wish to maintain this important ecosystem function.

What have you learned throughout your research project?

My research on avian scavenger succession has taught me how to complete my own publishable research project from start to finish. It has given me the tools I need to confidently begin a PhD program in wildlife conservation and start my career as a wildlife conservation biologist. I have learned how to work with a variety of people on different parts of the project and balance my time between all of the different aspects that go into a large research project. I have already learned so much about avian scavenging in Washington State, and can’t wait to publish my research and contribute to the limited amount of research on the subject. 

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

Pick a project that interests you, and don’t be afraid to let your interests overlap with one another! Besides beginning my career in wildlife conservation, I am also an avid artist, athlete, and interested in gender, women, sexuality studies. Letting yourself explore all of your interests together leads to the strongest connections and best projects. A big part of the research process is working with other people. Take advantage of that, build connections, and learn all you can from your mentors.