Kinga Aletto recently combined her interest in art and passion for wildlife in her UCARE project on the Javan blue-banded kingfisher.
Aletto, a pre-veterinary medicine and fisheries and wildlife major from Sarasota, Florida, has long wanted to work with wildlife. Her search for a school with a good agriculture pre-veterinary program and a rifle team led her to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
“The school is really nice,” she said. “I love it here.”
A conservation biology professor opened Aletto’s eyes to the struggles of small endangered species, such as the kingfisher, a tropical bird typically found in Indonesia.
“They said one of the main reasons why some of these [endangered] species aren’t able to get help is because people just don’t know about them,” she said. “It’s kind of like they need a way to put this species’ struggles and what it’s going through out to the mainstream media.”
When one of Aletto’s art professors, Eddie Dominguez, asked her to be a part of the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience program, she saw an opportunity to bring awareness to an endangered species through art.
Aletto said she likes art as a form of creating awareness because it resonates with her personally.
“It’s almost something like pandas,” Aletto said. “You can read all the issues they’re going through, but when you see a picture of a panda sitting in this landscape where there’s nothing there, you’re more likely to be like … ‘I didn’t realize it was this bad.’”
Aletto worked with Dominguez to craft the kingfisher out of clay.
“He’s a great professor, and I enjoyed working with him,” she said. “I had never met a professional artist … never been inside a professional artist’s studio, so it was really cool to see how it worked.”
Despite not being an art major, Aletto said her UCARE project taught her valuable lessons.
“[I learned] work ethic,” she said. “With art, you have to discuss your thought processes … Working with Eddie, I had to explain myself a lot, which I’ll have to do if I’m a vet … so it was a lot of people skills, conversation, work ethic.”
Aletto aspires to work with large exotic animals and with conservation efforts both domestically and internationally.