Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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The Golondrinas Network

What do swallows in Lancaster have in common with swallows in Alaska and Tierra del Fuego?

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They are all part of a large-scale long-term research study of the evolution of reproductive behavior in a group of swallows, the genus Tachycineta. Prof. Ardia, his students, and his colleagues at Cornell University study the evolution of clutch size, the number of eggs each female lays, across the Western Hemisphere.

The forces that drive the evolution of this seemingly simple trait are actually complex and currently unresolved. Ardia and his collaborators believe that comparing a single closely-related group that differs widely in their breeding biology and environmental surroundings can help shed light on the evolution of this and other life history traits.

The research, called the Golondrinas Network, is supported by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation through the Program in International Research and Education. A central goal of the project is to provide research experiences for undergraduates along with international outreach and education.

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Recent college graduates, including F&M students, are sent in teams to work alongside host country scientists to monitor populations and test experimental hypotheses, while also serving as ambassadors and learning more about how to do science and field biology. 

Teams are currently in the field in Argentina, Belize, Canada, and Mexico, with plans for research in Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru.