Sarah Kingston: An Evolutionary Look at Spotted and Collared Towhees

One of the birds from Kingston’s study: a collared towhee, from Nevado de Colima, Jalisco, Mexico​.


Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Sarah Kingston has a new article in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology that explains how she and her co-authors used gene sequencing technology to understand how two bird species are swapping genes.

“We were interested in using next-generation sequencing technology to look at how some genes are moving between two bird species in Mexico in two geographically different hybrid zones,” Kingston explained. “These birds, spotted and collared towhees, live at high elevation across ‘islands’ of volcanic peaks. We sought out genome-scale data in these natural ‘replicate’ zones to assess the similarities and differences we see in the exchange of genes where the species interact.”

This semester, Kingston is teaching a course at Bowdoin on computational genomics and big data in the field of biology. A molecular ecologist, she studies gene flow across species’ boundaries and how selective pressures are changing in response to climate change. Currently, she is investigating blue mussels in the Gulf of Maine, looking at their adaptive potential in the face of ocean acidification.

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