A few semesters ago, Courtney Tucker traded her desk job in the Financial Aid Office for a work-study position that allows her to collect, bake, and examine owl pellets – masses of indigestible material that is tightly compacted in an owl’s gizzard after swallowing a rodent. A self-proclaimed outdoorsy type, she found the search for these clumps of regurgitated bones and claws to be far more interesting than the federal forms that were part of her former position.

“We find them mostly in silos, then wrap them in tin foil and bake them,” she said. “After that, we pick them apart to see what we can find. We mostly find skulls of voles and shrews.”

Say what?

At this point in the story, it’s important to note that Courtney is Dr. Kevin Hamed’s work-study student. She has a few final classes to take this summer, then plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology at Virginia Tech. She enjoys examining owl pellets and likes searching for salamanders, so she is perfect for the job.

Courtney is well known on campus, but there are a lot of interesting tidbits about her that most people don’t know. For example:

  • She came to VHCC on an AIMS Scholarship and, to complete the community service requirement of that award, she served hand-scooped ice cream at the Lions Club booth at the Virginia Highlands Festival for several summers.
  • Her older sister, Katie, was in the Theatre Arts Program at VHCC and encouraged Courtney to get involved. Although she never took any theatre classes, Courtney helped with costumes for two VHCC productions – Exit the King and Spoon River Anthology.
  • An animal lover, she enjoys spending time with her dog, Ralphie, and two goats, Oreo and Blizzard.
  • She was involved in Future Farmers of America while a student at Abingdon High School.
  • Both of her parents are graduates of Virginia Tech, and it’s always been her goal to transfer there. She has stayed there during FFA trips and has taken tours to familiarize herself with the campus.
  • She loves music. Country is her favorite, but she also likes pop, classic rock, rap and screamo (Google that last one if you don’t believe there is such a thing).
  • She played French horn for a short time while in elementary school, but said “that didn’t work out.”
  • During the Coastal Ecology Class trip to Mississippi last year, she and a classmate got very close – a bit too close for comfort, in fact – to an alligator while kayaking.
  • And most importantly, Courtney is an advocate for VHCC. “I really like that it’s a small place and everyone is very close. I like getting to know my professors.”