Flying high

Grace Relihan ’12 with a pigeon at the Raptor Trust, based in central New Jersey.Grace Alloy-Relihan ’12 has been fascinated by birds her whole life but didn’t know it until she stepped into “Evolution and Ecology,” the course taught by Professor of Biology John Kricher.

“There is in that course a large section on the evolution and anatomy of dinosaurs, leading all the way to the evolution of modern birds,” says Alloy-Relihan. “After a particular lecture detailing the feathered dinosaurs found in Liaoning, China, I went home to my own parakeets and stared at them for an hour because I saw what they really were for the first time.

“There were two small dinosaurs in a cage in my house. I was looking into the eyes of the creatures I’d been so fascinated by my whole life.”

The experience inspired the psychobiology major. She took the ornithology course taught by Professor Kricher, served as a teaching assistant in his class and pursued an independent study on bird anatomy. Before she graduated, Kricher suggested she apply for an internship with the Raptor Trust, based in central New Jersey.

“The Raptor Trust takes in all sick and injured birds brought to it, not just raptors, so my main tasks involve feeding and caring for the hundreds of baby birds that have come in this summer,” says Alloy-Relihan, who also finds time to continue comparative studies on avian and therapod dinosaur bones.

The Conger Family Internship Fund established by Trustee Nancy Pearlstine Conger ’67 provides the stipend support for Alloy-Relihan’s work at the Trust. The support is key, she says. “The internship award and stipend help me by making sure that I can cover my own living expenses without putting financial pressure on the Raptor Trust itself.”

Alloy-Relihan says the experience working at the Trust is invaluable.

“I am the sort of person who is hungry for knowledge,” she says. “This experience has shown me that I can keep learning the sort of information I crave outside of a college setting. It has also definitely reinforced my desire to make my career one based around birds.”

Photos by Pete Byron