February Presentation – Factors Influencing Common Loon Genetics
DATE: February 8, 2023 (Wed) 7 PM “Factors Influencing Common Loon Genetics
LOCATION: Peter White Library, George Shiras Room, 3rd Floor
PRESENTER: Amy Munes, NMU graduate student
Common loon (Gavia immer) breeding success has decreased in recent years leading to population declines. A 2014 Audubon report projected loons to be extirpated from the U.S. by 2080. My research examines biological and environmental factors at a genetic level by measuring the telomeres lengths in loon blood cells. Telomere lengths act as indicators of longevity. When telomeres degrade to a certain point, cells no longer replicate, organs start to fail. The organism deteriorates quickly and eventually dies. Deterioration is largely influenced by age and exacerbated by oxidative stress levels throughout their lives, especially early while they are still developing. By measuring blood telomere degradation over several years, I am learning how stress from sibling competition may be influencing telomere lengths. I am also exploring how stress from methylmercury contamination influences blood telomeres of individuals and their offspring, factors that potentially influence survival of common loons across the Upper Peninsula.