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Rachael DiSciullo Feeds the Birds

Rachael DiSciullo Seed Rentention Trials

Contrary to popular belief, toucans do not eat Fruit Loops. Just ask Rachael DiSciullo, senior biology major, who fed palm fruits to four different species of toucans to study their seed retention rates while on co-op in Costa Rica.

“Having only one co-op, I wanted to make the most of it,” Rachael said. And for her, that meant leaving the Philadelphia area. “As an aspiring field biologist, I hope to do a lot of work outside the country,” Rachael explained. With this goal in mind, she applied to the Steinbright Corporate Partners Program, which provides funding for students to pursue enriching co-op opportunities outside of the Delaware Valley in the non-profit field.

It was thanks to the Steinbright Corporate Partner’s Fund that Rachael was able to take an unpaid co-op as a field assistant to University of Louisiana Ph.D. student Landon Jones in Turrialba, Cartago, Costa Rica. “I am very grateful for the opportunity that the scholarship permitted me to have. I don’t think I could have gone to Costa Rica without it.”

As a field assistant, Rachael was able to significantly contribute to the university’s research on the home range and seed dispersal tendencies of keel-billed toucans. In addition to her assigned job with the toucans, she spent five hours a week from dawn until early morning mist-netting passerine song birds in various habitats. From their research, the university aims to draw conclusions on how toucans and other birds can reforest a fragmented habitat. Additionally, she collaborated with Landon Hones to orchestrate and run a side project to determine seed retention and passage times in four species of toucan in a sanctuary outside of San Jose, Costa Rica.

Outside of work, Rachael was able to travel throughout the country as well as to nearby Nicaragua and Peru. During her six months abroad, Rachael was able to improve her language skills. “I went in speaking moderate Spanish, but now I can easily hold a conversation,” Rachael was pleased to say as most biodiversity studies are in the tropics and Spanish-speaking regions.

Rachael returned to Philadelphia as a proponent for international co-op. “Don’t limit yourself” is Rachael’s advice to her fellow Drexel students. “Go where you need to go,” she says, which is exactly what she is doing. Upon graduation, Rachael will be attending the University of Nebraska for a masters program and intends to earn her Ph.D. in field research. “I loved my co-op,” said Rachael. “The skills I learned and the connections I made will only help me in the future.”