Cynthia Downs

Assistant Professor of Biology Cynthia Downs presented “Correlates of Immune Defenses in Golden Eagles” at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. The meeting took place Jan. 4-8 in New Orleans.

Based on data collected by Elisa MacColl ’16 as part of her senior thesis, the paper was part of a larger collaboration between Downs, MacColl and research scientists at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, Boise State University, the Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and the University of Nevada, Reno.

The group examined how population, Leucocytozoon parasite presence, mass (scaled for structural size), heterophil:lymphocyte ratio and age affect immune defenses in golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) nestlings from California, Oregon and Idaho.

Among their results, the researchers found that eagles from Oregon had better immunity, suggesting that those eagles may be exposed to more parasites than those from California and Idaho.  

The researchers hope that this study of a free-living, long-lived raptor species will help develop a broad perspective regarding the evolutionary and environmental pressures on immune function in birds.

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