Sam Glickman, a senior biology major in the Macaulay Honors College at The City College of New York (CCNY), presented a poster at the joint meeting of the American Ornithologists Union, Cooper Ornithological Society and Society of Canadian Ornithologists, held last month in San Diego. He was one of only eight undergraduates nationwide to win a travel award from the societies.
His poster, “Molecular phylogeny of the Motmots (Coraciiformes; Momotidae) based on complete sequencing of the ND5 mitochondrial gene,” was based on work done for his undergraduate honors thesis in collaboration with Jeff G. Groth at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and sponsored at CCNY by Associate Professor of Biology Robert P. Anderson.
Motmots are a family of birds found mainly in neo-tropical woodland areas in the Western Hemisphere. They are known for the barbless (featherless) sections on their central tail feathers and typically have green, blue and russet plumage with a black facial mask and black breast spot.
For his research, Mr. Glickman extracted DNA and performed sequencing of the mitochondrial ND5 gene for all nine species and one subspecies in the family. The ND5 gene was chosen for this project in order to avoid contamination by other work in the ornithology lab by using a rarely sequenced mitochondrial marker. He conducted his research at the American Museum of Natural History, where he took a CCNY ornithology course taught by Groth and fellow AMNH researcher Peter Capainolo, who are adjunct professors for CCNY.
“I wanted to see how birds are related to each other, based on DNA evidence,” Mr. Glickman explained, adding that he first became interested in motmots when he was a volunteer at the Central Park Zoo. “In the tropical aviary one my favorite birds was the blue-crowned motmot (Momotus momota).” The divergent DNA sequences of one widespread species, the blue-crowned motmot, indicates that it may represent more than one species, leading to different conservation implications than suggested by current taxonomy.
After graduation next May, Mr. Glickman plans to attend veterinary school. The Staten Island resident has a 3.98 GPA.
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