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  • (birds chirping) (soft music)

  • - My relationship to the natural world was largely fostered

  • through my grandparents who owned a farm in Idaho.

  • We would go there every summer and we were free to roam

  • and play in the forest and hang out.

  • But I still didn't necessarily think

  • I wanted to be a scientist.

  • It wasn't until I got to understand

  • the creative part of science,

  • that it wasn't just about memorizing,

  • like, facts in a text book.

  • That's what really made me realize,

  • oh wait, actually this is a creative process, and I love it.

  • My name is Kristen Ruegg.

  • I am an assistant professor at Colorado State University,

  • and I am the co-director of a project

  • called the Bird Genoscape Project.

  • (soft music)

  • The goal of the Bird Genoscape Project is

  • to track hundreds of the most critically threatened birds.

  • All kinds of birds are part of this project

  • from tiny songbirds, like the willow flycatcher,

  • to my favorite, the charismatic burrowing owl.

  • I think it's amazing that over half of the birds

  • that are in North America actually leave

  • during the winter months and go somewhere else

  • and spend the majority of the year actually not here.

  • Birds migrate south in the winter

  • in search of better weather and more food,

  • and they migrate back north in the spring

  • in search of better habitat for breeding.

  • The main mystery with birds is where do birds migrate?

  • The ability to track migratory birds has been

  • a huge challenge for centuries.

  • One of the challenges is there are tracking devices,

  • but they're usually not small enough

  • to be able to put on a migratory bird.

  • So our thought was, well, if we could develop a technology

  • that could use information within a single feather,

  • like information in the DNA of the bird

  • to track their migratory movements,

  • then we could get information from every bird

  • that comes through a monitoring station.

  • If I wanted to understand where my ancestors were from,

  • I might take a DNA sample from me

  • and send it off to a genetic ancestry service.

  • They would compare my DNA against this huge database

  • of DNA from many, many other people

  • and be able to identify that my most likely ancestry

  • is largely Norwegian.

  • In a sense, that's what we're doing

  • with the DNA found in a single bird feather.

  • It's like genetic ancestry mapping for birds.

  • So here we have an American robin,

  • one of our Genoscape species.

  • This robin, yes, I see you.

  • This robin migrates from the boreal forest

  • in Canada and parts of the US

  • and goes as far south in the winter as Mexico.

  • And we also collect the feathers, the tail feathers,

  • that we use for genetic analysis.

  • (uplifting music)

  • The reason why we collect these feathers

  • is because we can use the tip of the feather right here,

  • which contains a little bit of DNA

  • to tell you which migratory pathway this bird took

  • and where it winters and breeds.

  • So what you have displayed here

  • is the map for the Wilson's Warbler showing the location

  • of the six populations.

  • Each one goes to a different wintering area.

  • For example, the Rocky Mountain population heads

  • all the way down to El Salvador and Panama.

  • Using their DNA, we can follow their migratory journey.

  • All we need is DNA from the tip of a feather.

  • Now that the Bird Genoscape Project is helping us understand

  • where and how birds move throughout the year,

  • we can figure out the best ways

  • to help them survive in a changing world.

  • Uncovering the mysteries of bird migration

  • may be the key to protecting them.

  • (uplifting music)

(birds chirping) (soft music)

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B1 dna bird migratory feather migrate project

Tales of a Tailfeather | Explorers in the Field

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/10
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