Date of Award

Spring 2-17-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Science

First Advisor

Dr. Katie Stumpf

Second Advisor

Dr. David Weese

Third Advisor

Dr. Melanie Devore


Migration is an energetically costly and stressful event and migratory stopover sites are important areas along the migratory route that birds stop at to rest and refuel. Migration timing and routes vary across and even within species, including differences between sexes, ages and populations. Most genetic studies of migratory birds occur on breeding grounds, but when breeding locations are not known, it is likely that genetic patterns can be assessed accurately at migratory stopover sites if certain conditions exist. First, if a species is philopatric – where individuals return to the same sites every year, gene flow across geographically separated populations would be low, resulting in genetically distinct populations. Second, if geographically separated breeding populations converge on the same stopover sites, genetically distinct populations should be observed throughout the migratory season. Few studies, however, attempt to assess population structure at stopover sites, yet these are important areas to study in order to understand migration ecology and migratory origin. Traditionally, these types of studies use genetic markers like microsatellites or are coupled with field-based methods to determine population structure and migratory origin. However, using microsatellites alone should be sufficient if the previous conditions are met. Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) are a philopatric migratory bird with a large breeding range throughout the US. If geographically isolated populations are converging on the same stopover sites along their migratory route, then genetic patterns may be revealed even when migratory origin is unknown.