Northern Michigan University zoology major Emily Bertucci recently spent 10 weeks doing research on the breeding ecology of the white-winged junco in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Ishpeming native participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) through North Dakota State University.
The project was based on Bertucci’s idea that male juncos may alter their level of parental care depending on their degree of certainty in their paternity of the offspring. She and other research team members searched daily for nests in the Black Hills. They caught, banded and took blood samples from adult and nesting birds.
Bertucci also placed iButton temperature sensors in nests to record the wake-up time of female birds and video cameras on the nests to monitor parental care. She spent the last two weeks of her REU program in Fargo, N.D., doing data analysis, extracting DNA for paternity analysis and writing her final paper.
“This experience was so great because I got first-hand experience with field work, data analysis and writing a manuscript for my research,” Bertucci said.
She will present the results of the project at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference in New Orleans in January and also work to publish her paper in a scientific journal once the final results are obtained.