Eileen Connell

Major: Environmental Science
“Population Genetics of the American Redstart: Locating the Winter Sites”

Eileen Connell

There are distinct populations of the American Redstart, a migratory bird, in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The populations are genetically distinct from each other and the differences between the populations will be examined through their mitochondrial DNA. The methods to be employed are DNA restriction, ligation, and the computer programs PAUP and STRUCTURE. The results will show the level of relatedness between the populations in order to determine when the populations diverged. The unique migration pattern of the American Redstart could result in gene flow that would produce a homogenous population. The populations of the American Redstart breed separately during the summer in North America, but spend the winter in the Caribbean Basin during which it is possible for the individuals to mix. However, it is predicted that these populations remain separate from one another during the winter migration, allowing genetic distinctions to remain.

How did you find your mentor for your research project?
I took Biogeography in Fall 2013 taught by my mentor.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
I was very interested in how mutation rates, spatial patterns, and migration all impacted the health of a species.

Is this your first independent research project?

How much time do you put into it?
As of this summer, just researching topics is all I have been able to do.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
My friends have participated previously in the URA program.

What academic background did you have before you applied for the URA?
I applied as a Junior in College with some other summer experiences in a lab.

Was the application difficult to do?
It was a little time consuming, but well worth the time and energy to make my thoughts clear.

How much did your mentor help you with the application?
My mentor helped with proofreading and suggestions on how to convey information.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
There are overlapping themes with my other classes, however research allows a hands-on aspect.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Talk to people in the field you want to study. It does not hurt to hear about other fields as well. Simply understanding how he/she became involved in the research helps.

What are your career goals?
To graduate, to get a job I am enthusiastic about, and to receive my Masters degree later in time.

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