Student Profile: Museum Fellow Alyssa FitzGerald

Alyssa FitzGerald is a Ph.D student at SUNY Albany and works at the Museum to conduct research for her doctoral program. Alyssa's research is focused on studying three closely-related species of thrushes. She wants to know why and how these birds, which look very similar to the untrained eye, evolved from a common ancestor into three different species.

Alyssa works closely with curator of ornithology, Jeremy Kirchman, as she conducts her research. Alyssa and Jeremy have conducted research throughout the Northeast to collect genetic and habitat data from thrushes. After collecting data from the birds in the field, Alyssa returns to the State Museum's DNA lab where she spends the fall and winter months gathering and analyzing the data.

After doing this work for three years, Alyssa is still interested in studying birds and evolution. "I like asking 'how' and 'why' questions and I want to answer them," she says. "This project allows me to do that."

As part of her fellowship, Alyssa also works as a curatorial assistant and helps maintain the thousands of bird specimens in the State Museum's collection.

Alyssa anticipates completing her Ph.D program in May 2016 and will continue working at the Museum until graduation. "My experience at the Museum has been incredibly beneficial," she says. "I've always wanted a job where I can do something different every day. Whether I'm out in the field collecting data, analyzing data in the labs, or helping to maintain the bird collection, I'm learning something new every day."