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Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Student News: Sebastian Acevedo '23 wins outstanding poster presentation award

DNA extraction from songbird feathers opens possibilities
Sebastian Acevedo doing field work

What motivates Sebastian Acevedo is the prospect of benefiting Bay Area Birds and the field of bird conservation in general. As a double major in Biology and Environmental science, he has been working in the lab of biology faculty member Justen Whittall on bird molecular ecology research over the summer of 2021. With constant support from the entire research group and their partners at Stanford University's SOAR program and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, they successfully extracted DNA from songbird feathers to distinguish the sex of Yellow-rumped Warblers and the species of nearly indistinguishable Western Flycatchers. Sebastian and his research partner, junior biology major D’Angelo Castillo, presented a poster at their first in-person research conference at the 45th Annual West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference (WCBSURC). They not only had an amazing time meeting other biology researchers and expanding their knowledge on a broad range of biological topics, and experiences, but were also honored with an award for "outstanding poster presentation." This pilot study opens up the possibilities for answering important ecological questions regarding, for example, sex-specific migration patterns in Bay Area warblers.