Research Story

Melissa Meadows

Melissa Meadows
Graduated May 2004 | Major: Biology and Marine Biology

"For my senior honors project, I studied Royal Terns, specifically the sex-ratios of their chick and adult populations. Since Royal Terns are sexually monomorphic throughout their life histories, I used a molecular method to determine sex. Throughout the project, I gained fantastic field and laboratory experience. I traveled to tern breeding colonies in North Carolina and Virginia where I collected blood samples from chicks and adults, and also banded, weighed, and measured them for other projects. I also developed many skills in the molecular lab including Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), DNA sequencing, DNA extraction, gel electrophoresis, and cloning. My work has demonstrated a female-biased chick sex-ratio, and a slightly male-biased or balanced adult sex ratio. This indicates that Royal Terns are experiencing female-biased mortality at some point after fledging. Because Royal Tern populations have declined at least 13% since the 1970s, this may be an important component in understanding population fluctuations. I am extremely grateful for the research experience I have gained as a student at UNCW. This opportunity allowed me, an undergraduate, to be the first to determine population level sex-ratios in Royal Terns."


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