• Name: Julie Heath, Ph.D.
  • Institution: Boise State University
  • Department: Biological Sciences
  • Phone: 208-426-3208
  • Email: julieheath@boisestate.edu

Summary: I am interested in studying intrinsic markers of stress.  Dr. Eric Hayden and I have been collaborating on the development of an assay of telomere lengths for birds and other animals.  Telomeres have excellent potential for indexing individual quality, exposure to stress, and age.  Over the past several years, the Hayden lab has developed a powerful set of primers for measuring telomeres, including telomeres of American Kestrels.  We have a long-term field project on American Kestrels in the Treasure Valley where we study the effects of climate change and land use change.  We propose to sample American Kestrels under different environmental conditions, measure telomere lengths, and the monitor the fitness (survival and productivity) of individuals to better understand the mechanisms the underlie the effect of environmental change on individuals and, ultimately, populations.

Minimum classes: N/A

Projects: We propose that the INBRE fellow works on the heritability of telomere lengths using American Kestrels as a model system.  The assay for telomeres has been developed, and we are keen to better understand how telomeres function, factors that affect or predict telomere lengths, and the associations of telomere lengths on fitness.  An important first step in this study is understanding whether telomere length is a heritable trait.  We will collect DNA samples from adult kestrels and kestrel nestlings and look at whether telomere length is heritable, how variable telomere length is between siblings compared to telomeres among different broods of nestlings.  This research will involve field work, capture and handling of wild birds, and laboratory work to extract the DNA and run qPCR.  All IACUC permits (and federal and state permits) are in place for this work.  In addition to research methods, the fellow will develop data management skills, data analysis skills, and give a presentation of this research.

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