Who? Evelien Kooij
What? The role of pheromones in the mating behaviour of Morpho peleides males
Where? In the butterfly garden in Padua, northern Italy
During my internship I studied the Morpho butterfly in the covered greenhouses in the Montegrotte butterfly garden. We know the butterfly's beautiful blue colour contributes something to its mating behaviour but very little is known about the pheromones for attracting a female. So I made some observations with the aim of studying the behaviour of the male butterfly. I also cut open dead butterflies in order to look at the organs.
Two days a week I only had Italian colleagues who couldn't speak any English. At first I had to ask them three times what they meant but I practiced hard and at some point I started to be able to join in the chat at the breaks as well. It was an added benefit of my internship that not everyone spoke English. It made it more special.
I was living in a bad neighbourhood. From my bedroom window I could see guys masturbating, someone breaking into a car and a junk injecting herself in the groin. But luckily there was a fence around my house which meant I always felt safe. There were people to look out for me too. The shopkeepers on the street knew me, the only blonde, and my housemates would check whether I had come home. I was part of the community and completely in my element. Luckily I get to go back in November to attend an international butterfly conference where I will present my results and hope to do a bit of networking.'