Campus News

NSF Grant Supports Bird Research at Bowdoin Scientific Station

Story posted August 30, 2005

A recent major grant from the National Science Foundation will support continuing research at the Bowdoin Scientific Station (BSS) on aging in birds, with a focus on Leach's storm-petrels, which are among the most long-lived bird species known.

BSS Director Robert Mauck of Kenyon College, who succeeds longtime BSS Director Nathaniel Wheelwright, Bowdoin professor of biology, will administer the $535,000 grant supporting the study of the storm-petrels, which are a cousin of albatrosses.

The Bowdoin Scientific Station, which is located on Kent Island in New Brunswick, Canada, is home to a storm-petrel population that has been monitored since 1954 -- when Bowdoin Professor Emeritus Chuck Huntington first began his study of the birds there. According to Wheelwright, banded storm-petrels on the island have been found to live up to 35 years, "which is almost unheard of for any bird species in the wild."

In a recent breakthrough, scientists are looking at telomeres, a region of the chromosomes of storm-petrels that may account for their long lives. Mauck, who began his research on storm-petrels as a doctoral student at the Bowdoin Scientific Station, will undertake a three-year study to further explore the genetic roots of the birds' long lives.

"Bowdoin College has a field station that draws researchers from major research institutions around the world," notes Wheelwright. "For more than 70 years, the Bowdoin Scientific Station also has provided students opportunities to participate in big-league scientific exploration."

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