In December 2020, Katherine defended her Master’s Thesis, a project focused on identifying the genomic signatures underlying reproductive isolation in two hybridizing songbirds. Black-capped and Carolina chickadees form a well-studied hybrid zone that spans from New Jersey to Kansas. Katherine’s research, in support of previous studies, identified continued northward movement of the hybrid zone in Pennsylvania, potentially due to climate change. Additionally, Katherine identified patterns of reduced introgression on the Z chromosome and that these loci experiencing reduced introgression are related to cognitive and metabolic function. These findings, in addition to hybrid individuals being deficient in learning and memory capabilities, suggest cognition may be a mechanism maintaining reproductive isolation in Black-capped and Carolina chickadees. Moving forward, Katherine plans to publish her Honors Thesis research, finalize analyses for her Master's Thesis and work at a biotech company in Boulder before starting a PhD program.
Chickadee photo by Amanda Hund