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Townsend Awarded NSF Grant to Study Genetic Basis of Migration


Andrea Townsend
Andrea Townsend

Assistant Professor of Biology Andrea Townsend was recently awarded a $25,400 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support her project “Collaborative Research: Quantifying conserved genomic regions at the within-species level.”

This grant, provided through the NSF’s Research Opportunity and Research in Undergraduate Institutions Programs, will support collaborative work by Townsend and her students with researchers at Cornell University.

Townsend said the genetic underpinnings of migration are poorly understood, but they are likely to involve genes encoding for many traits (i.e., a “migratory gene package”), including physiological, cognitive, and behavioral traits. Some of these loci could be examples of speciation loci, if they inhibit genetic mixing between sedentary and migratory birds.

She and her students will work with researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab to identify conserved regions that could be associated with migration within a single species, the American Crow.

The information collected with the support of this award will increase our understanding about the factors that contribute to migration and the extent to which migration is genetically linked to other traits. This work will also shed light on the extent to which the “migratory gene package” might ultimately contribute to the formation of new species.

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