Women in Science: Francesca Ciocca

As is common in the biological sciences, research subjects (in this case an Orange-winged Amazon) are deposited in a museum. Francesca Ciocca, a UBC Honours undergrad student in the Altshuler Lab, is studying the geometry and mechanical behaviour of two muscles (Tensor Progatagialis Brevis and Extensor Metacarpi Radialis) in different bird taxa. The Beaty Biodiversity Museum avian specimen B018099 database record will document that Francesca performed her measurements on this parrot on January 29, 2021. Later, after Francesca has written and defended her thesis, as well as any resulting journal articles, these citations will be added to the bird’s Beaty Museum database record.

“My research is aimed at better understanding how the muscles in birds’ wings help them perform dynamic movements in the air,” explains Francesca. “Bird flight behaviour is incredibly diverse, and features of wing muscles may contribute to this variation. This parrot is a great example of a species with a unique muscle arrangement.  The large muscle on the left has two tendons that attach directly to the muscle on the right.  This might improve the parrot’s ability to fold or stabilize its wing.”

For Francesca, having access to this specimen is essential to her research. “Taking detailed measurements in a variety of species gives me information about why certain muscles have evolved in birds,” she says.  The use of these taxa in Francesca’s research has a lasting legacy. Not only will this parrot be used by future students and researchers for genetic investigations and comparative morphology studies, but images of this beautiful parrot and occasionally the specimen itself will be used for outreach education on avian biodiversity.