Giving CPR to a Bird – a day in the life of a Museum of Natural Sciences Intern

hands on demo

Author: Sarah Roy, FWCB Class of 2016

“Excuse me,” I heard a small and nervous voice call to me, “I was wondering if you could help me figure out what birdy this is,” I turned around to see a petite young girl looking up at me. She had on an insect t-shirt, with unkempt hair and a Barbie camera slung around her wrist. She proceeded to show me a picture of a large breasted bird that she had taken in her backyard. “I think what you have there is an American Robin,” I said. She was grateful for my help, and smiled with a warmth that you only feel from a child. Now that she had gotten my attention, her initial shyness quickly faded. She became a passionate young naturalist right before my eyes. She told me about getting up early in the morning just to watch the birds in her backyard. “If I stay really still and quiet they don’t fly away!” she said. In just 5 minutes I had fallen in love with this kid. “My name is Violet,” she told me confidently, “what’s your name?” I proceeded to properly introduce myself, and told her I used to watch birds when I was little too. “Do you want to hear a story?” she said, twirling her Barbie camera around her wrist. I nodded and she continued, “One time, at my house, I was playing outside and I found a bird that looked hurt in my yard.” “So, I tried to save him, but I think I was too late…” she said. Before I could even muster a reply she quickly finished her thought, “But just to make sure I gave him CPR.” I struggled not to laugh, because I knew better than to mock a child’s good intentions; after all, I remembered how it felt to be laughed at by grown-ups. I had to clarify, “Like, you gave the bird mouth to mouth resuscitation?” I asked. “Yeah! I tried to blow air in his mouth really hard, but I don’t think it worked right,” she replied nonchalantly. “Oh well, he is in heaven now,” she concluded. “I think you’re probably right,” I said.

Author Sarah Roy with her internship project on bird migrations.
Author Sarah Roy with her internship project on bird migrations.


Stories like these were daily occurrences during my internship working in the Naturalist Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. I will forever value this experience because it not only taught me complex scientific concepts, but perhaps more importantly, it taught me that there is hope for the natural world in people; something I previously doubted. This hope stems from my first-hand experience working with the public every day. It allowed me to see that this passion for understanding the natural world is as present as ever. Children see the value in a single bird, senior citizens want to know what snake species they have on their property. There is a curiosity there, and that I think is what will carry us through. As long as this is present, conservation will ultimately prevail.