Genevieve Akponye

Timing is Everything: Bird-brained Ideas About the Importance of Melatonin for Reproduction

We will use wild-caught European starlings to explore where melatonin may be produced in the bird brain (outside of the pineal gland) by detection of enzymes involved in its synthesis. Generally, organisms strategically allocate energy among physiological processes, and these processes are highly sensitive to the environment. Species that reproduce seasonally utilize environmental cues to coordinate physiology at the proper time. These cues are translated into signals through neuroendocrine signals, leading to the production of melatonin in the pineal gland; however, the pineal gland has never been found to regulate reproduction in any seasonally reproducing bird species. How, and where, melatonin may be exerting a physiological effect on the reproductive physiology and timing of birds is wholly unknown but we hypothesize that the hypothalamus – a major part of the HPG axis – may produce it de novo.

Message to Sponsor

Thank you to the Johnson fund for generously supporting this amazing opportunity that affords me the chance to conduct research under the guidance of professionals. This is my first experience conducting research and it means a lot that it is in a field that I enjoy learning about. I hope to learn new lab skills and grow not only as a scientist, but also as a person.
  • Major: Molecular Environmental Biology
  • Sponsor: Johnson Fund
  • Mentor: Mattina Alonge