Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Biology (MS)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Dr. Alec Lindsay


Telomeres are non-coding segments of linear DNA located at the tips of each chromosome. They act as a buffer from the permanent loss of nucleotides that occurs naturally during mitosis, protecting critical coding portions of DNA from irreparable damage. Telomeres degrade faster in developing individuals experiencing rapid mitosis and damage is made worse from oxidative stress, especially early in life. Therefore, telomere length measurements can be a good indicator of life expectancy at the population levels. In some species, telomere lengths are better indicators of longevity than age bringing telomere analysis to the forefront of life expectancy research. For this study, telomeres were measured from the DNA extracted from nucleated red blood cells collected during a long-term study of common loons (Gavia immer). Common loons are piscivorous waterbirds, living sometimes longer than 30 years, and they produce one to two chicks each year after they reach six years of age. The purpose of this study was to explore environmental factors that could cause rapid rates of telomere loss. Telomeres were quantified using qPCR amplification profiles of the telomeres compared with the ultra-conserved elements within the genome used as the single copy genes to calculate T/S ratios. Results showed that telomere lengths were significantly shorter with age; smaller same brood siblings showed a telomere length change with size, as individuals got smaller their telomeres were shorter; and there was no indication that methylmercury influenced blood telomeres negatively.

Access Type

NMU Users Only

Justification for Restricting Access

I am planning to publish the results from this thesis and do not want others to access the data until the publication is completed.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 05, 2028