I helped with glider research when I joined a PhD student as a volunteer for a few days. Volunteering is a great way to help wildlife, come very close to wild species and make a real difference for conservation.
Plus you can choose where and with which wildlife you volunteer!
Find more about volunteer with wildlife in general or read my experience with beautiful gliders below.
Gliders are arboreal marsupials that live in Australia.
It means they live in trees.
A very famous marsupial is the kangaroo. I'm sure you know what's so special about a kangaroo? So you know what a marsupial is!
A marsupial is a mammal that has its babies when they are very very young (in other words, early in the embryonic development). The marsupial baby is not quite finished, so it has to stay into its mum's pouch for months before it's ready to face the wild world.
As a consequence, it's very easy for a marsupial mum to give birth: the baby is usually only a centimeter or so even for a big animal like a kangaroo. The mum licks a little path in her fur and the baby climbs on its own toward the safety of the pouch!
How good is that for giving birth!!??
In the pictures above is a baby koala in the pouch and you can see it suckling its mum's tits
Gliders are amazing creatures, as all marsupials are.
But they have something more: they can fly! I suppose you could call them the flying squirrels of Australia (although they are not squirrels at all! -being marsupials...).
Gliders have a special gliding membrane between their arms and legs, and they jump and glide from tree to tree.
On the above picture you can see the start of the flying membrane from the hand, and also some membrane folds between front and back limbs
I volunteered to help a PhD student in her work with gliders.
She was looking at glider populations living in different islands in the Moreton Bay, Australia, and how these populations were related (genetically).
We caught several of our flying marsupials by leaving little traps in trees.
Once we had one in a trap, we transferred it to a bag and took several measurements (how big, how heavy), check whether we caught a boy or a girl, and sampled a little bit of skin for genetics. We checked the girls' pouches to see if any babies were there.
Once we collected all the data we needed for the study, we gave our little friend a treat to compensate for a hard morning...
Gliders love honey!
They usually spend their night looking for tasty snacks including honeydew: a sweet liquid that is produced by sap-sucking insects. Probably as sweet as honey!
Other food items on a glider's menu are sap, nectar, pollen, insects, bird eggs, birds, lizards, and other small animals: in a nutshell, a very diversified diet!
Now do you agree with me that gliders are the cutest animals???
Finally, our little flying marsupial is ready to go home!
Volunteering for research students is a great way to experience firsthand wild animals, to be part of groundbreaking science meanwhile helping understand and preserve wildlife.
And meeting interesting people.
Conclusion: It's 100% good stuff!