Bird feathers color research on duck nutrition

September 14, 2009

The wings of many ducks are decorated with intense bands of color, while others are downright drab. Have you ever stopped to think about the significance behind the coloration of birds? Biologist Kevin McGraw has.

McGraw’s laboratory in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University delves deep into research that examines pigments and structural color and their link to nutrition in birds – with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and support from postdoctoral fellow Melissah Rowe and University of Rochester undergraduate Alison Ossip-Klein. Download Full Image

McGraw’s research grows out of his interest in understanding how and why animals display the colors that they do. In previous work, for example, he discovered that foods rich in carotenoids – yellow, orange and red pigments found in plants that also function as antioxidants – can directly affect bird coloration and health.

“These studies of carotenoids and color have emerged as an excellent model for testing life-history tradeoffs using a common nutritional currency,” McGraw says. 

McGraw’s most recent NSF study examines how pigments in ducks play a role in their vision, health and appearance. McGraw’s group is working with 120 male and female ducks from two waterfowl species; the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta). As part of the experimental regime, the ducks are first fed a low-carotenoid “depletion diet” to flush their systems of these pigments. Then they are divided into six groups and placed on experimental diets that differ only in concentration of xanthophyll carotenoids (like lutein and zeaxanthin, typical yellow components of corn). Once the birds molt and develop their attractive adult colors this fall, McGraw and his team will score coloration, immune system performance and carotenoid accumulation in internal body tissues (like ovaries and eyes) to determine how relatively important these different uses of pigments are.

Ossip-Klein joined McGraw's laboratory by applying to do a summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) fellowship funded by the federal government and administered in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences by the School of Life Sciences. “I never worked with birds before, but was curious about sexual selection and coloration in animals and found the topic interesting,” Ossip-Klein says. She was in charge of diet preparation and contributed to regular blood draws (for health assessment) and behavioral monitoring.

“We typically work with ten or more ASU undergraduates in our research each year,” McGraw says. “They become involved through many different routes – as student volunteers, to earn independent-study credit, as hired employees on grants, or as part of our formal research track, the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) program.” To ensure the best fit in his lab, McGraw searches for students “with diverse interests, perhaps having a background in ecology, evolution or physiology or an interest in animal communication, sexual selection, coloration or immunology”.

Ossip-Klein gained a range of skills and experiences working with the ducks, including learning how to handle birds, conducting morphological measurements and video analysis of animal behaviors, and utilizing sophisticated biochemistry equipment, like High Performance Liquid-Chromatography (HPLC), to analyze pigments in food and tissue.

Ossip-Klein also made time during her 11-week stay in Arizona to conduct her own independent project. McGraw says that “it was my and Melissa Rowe’s hope that we could attract a student that would not only assist with our project but also have the maturity and drive to pursue his/her line of research with these birds.” Ossip-Klein chose to explore the role of carotenoids in influencing the flight capacity of ducks. Based on similar work in the field, she hypothesized that ducks exposed to higher concentrations of carotenoids would fly higher and faster. She will be analyzing the data she’s gathered over the course of the next few months.

“Kevin definitely has one of the top labs in the country that deals with animal coloration,” says Australia native Melissah Rowe. Rowe was drawn to McGraw's lab while completing her doctorate at the University of Chicago. McGraw gave a talk there about on colors in songbirds in 2005, and she introduced herself and was soon collaborating with him.

“Understanding the potential tradeoffs of a certain molecule for multiple functions within an organism, and how an organism might prioritize an allocation to one or the other of those competing functions,” is what Rowe says is the most interesting part of this research in McGraw’s laboratory.

Rowe also points out, “Kevin is a very prolific researcher, and is one of the main reasons I chose to come to ASU.”

By: Addie Lenox
School of Life Sciences

Media contact: Margaret Coulombe
(480) 727-8934" target="_blank">

Plenty of good numbers as men's golf opens season

September 15, 2009

The Arizona State University men's golf team (#5 Golfweek/#6 Golf World) opens its 2009-2010 season this weekend (Sept. 18-20) at the Olympia Fields Invitational near Chicago. Here are some nuggets and facts to know as the first swing happens...

The Sun Devils have won two NCAA titles, in 1990 under coach and 2002 ASU Hall of Fame inductee Steve">">Steve Loy, and in 1996 under current head coach and 2008 National Golf Coaches Hall of Fame inductee Randy">">Randy Lein. What is good to know is that in 1996, the team won the NCAA at the Honors Course in Tennessee. That is the site of the this year's NCAA Championships. Download Full Image

In the past 17 seasons (since Randy">">Randy Lein took over at ASU) 12 different team champions have been crowned and Lein is the only coach to have two individual champions in that time (freshman Alejandro"> Canizares in 2003 and Todd Demsey in 1993). ASU also has finished in the top six nine times in those 17 years and has qualified for the NCAA Championships in 25 of the past 26 seasons, missing only in 2002, including each of the past seven seasons, tied for the fourth-best mark in the nation in that time.

Randy">">Randy Lein, who was inducted into the NGCA Hall of Fame in January of 2009, notched the top team accolade in collegiate golf in 1995-96 - the NCAA title - to his collection as the Sun Devils won the title in Chattanooga, Tenn., with a three-stroke victory over UNLV at the Honors Course. In his 17th season as ASU's coach, Lein has guided ASU to 43 tournament victories (including a school record six in 1995-96), eight Pac-10 titles, five NCAA West Regional wins and 10 top-10 finishes at the NCAAs including the 1996 title. In addition, Lein has tutored NCAA medalists Todd Demsey (1994) and Alejandro"> Canizares (2003) and 18 All-Americans (39 occasions): Todd Demsey (3), Chris Hanell (3), Paul">">Paul Casey (3), Cade Stone, Chris Stutts, Joey Snyder (2), Scott Johnson (2), Darren Angel (2), Jeff">">Jeff Quinney (3), Matt">">Matt Jones (2), Chez">">Chez Reavie (3), Alejandro"> Canizares (4), Niklas">">Niklas Lemke (3), Benjamin"> Alvarado Holley (2), Jesper">">... Kennegard (2), Scott">">Scott Pinckney, Knut">">Knut Borsheim and Stephan">">Ste... Gross. He has won Pac-10 Coach-of-the-Year five times (1993, 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2000) while at ASU and twice at USC (1980 and 1986). Lein (pronounced "Line") is a 1975 graduate of Cal State Northridge." height="1border=0" width="5" />
ASU has made the NCAA Championship in the past seven seasons and in 16 of 17 seasons under Randy">">Randy Lein, but it sure isn't getting easier with the 30-team, three-round regional format. Using Golfweek's rankings prior to the NCAA Championship, nine top 30 teams did not go to Toledo last season, a list that included seventh-ranked Clemson, No. 18 LSU, No. 21 Indiana, No. 23 UNLV, No. 24 NC State, No. 25 San Diego State, No. 28 Ole Miss, No. 29 Colorado State and No. 30 Florida State.

Of the 30 teams that made the 2009 NCAA Championships, only 15 played in the 2008 championship: UCLA, Stanford, USC, Oklahoma State, Washington, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arizona State, Illinois, Texas, Wake Forest and Oregon.

With the May 14-16 victories by both the team and Jesper">">... Kennegard at the 2009 West Regional, ASU has won or tied for the title in a NCAA Regional six times. ASU tied with Arizona in 1991 and tied with New Mexico in 1998. It won the title outright in 1995, 1999, 2001 and now 2009. Sun Devil Paul">">Paul Casey won the 1998 individual title outright followed by Jeff">">Jeff Quinney (1999), Benjamin"> Alvarado Holley (2007) and then Jesper">">... Kennegard this season. Matt">">Matt Jones shared medalist honors in 2001.

Chan">">Chan Kim posted a 72.20 stroke average in 2008-2009, just .55 off Alejandro Canizares' 2002-03 ASU freshman mark of 71.65 when he won the NCAA title.

1. Alejandro"> Canizares, 8 events, 2002-03, 71.65
2. Todd Demsey, 15, 1991-92, 72.10
3. Phil">">Phil Mickelson, 14, 1988-89, 72.14
4. Jesper">">... Kennegard, 12, 2007-08, 72.16
5. Chan">">Chan Kim, 8 2008-09, 72.20
6. Paul">">Paul Casey, 12, 1997-98, 72.30
7. Benjamin"> Alvarado Holley, 10, 2005-06, 72.50
8. Jeff">">Jeff Quinney, 11, 1997-98, 72.57
9. Chez">">Chez Reavie, 10, 2000-01, 72.58
10. Tristan"> Bierenbroodspot, 7, 2006-07, 72.64

Randy">">Randy Lein has recruited a European Amateur champion (Stephan">">Ste... Gross in 2008), a NCAA champion (Alejandro"> Canizares in 2003), a U.S. Amateur champion (Jeff">">Jeff Quinney in 2000), a U.S. Public Links champion (Chez">">Chez Reavie in 2001), an Arizona Amateur champion (Jesse">">Jesse Mueller, 2001) and an English Amateur champion (Paul">">Paul Casey, 1998 and 1999) to ASU.

Back in 2002, Randy">">Randy Lein saw ASU's 18-year NCAA championship consecutive streak snapped in a season that had injuries and bad luck. ASU is back in the saddle with seven straight, and to show you how competitive the NCAA men's golf champioships is, that streak already is tied for the sixth-best active streak, as Arizona (1987-2007) had a 21-year streak snapped in 2008 after failing to post a .500 record and not make regionals, while Georgia Tech did not qualify out of regional action in 2008 after making the NCAAs for 10 straight years (1998-2007). Only six teams have made the NCAAs in each of the past five seasons.

1. Oklahoma State, 1947-2009, 63
2. Georgia, 1998-2009, 12
3. Florida, 2001-2009, 9
T4. Arizona State, 2003-2009, 7
T4. UCLA, 2003-2009, 7
6. Wake Forest, 2005-2009, 5

ASU has had four NCAA medalists on six occasions: Jim Carter (1983), Phil">">Phil Mickelson (1989, 1990, 1992), Todd Demsey (1993) and Alejandro"> Canizares (2003). Other Pac-10 winners include: Frank Tatum Jr. of Stanford (1942), Scott Simpson of USC (1976 and 1977), Ron Commans of USC (1981), Tiger Woods of Stanford (1996), James Lepp of Washington (2005), Jamie Lovemark of USC (2007) and Kevin Chappell of UCLA (2008).

TOP 10
Coach Lein's 10 top-10 NCAA finishes in his 17 years is second only to Clemson and Oklahoma State for the most in that span. In that time, there have been 12 different NCAA team champions, while ASU and Oklahoma State are the only schools to have two NCAA medalists in his 17 years. ASU has finished in the top six nine times under Randy">">Randy Lein.

ASU has finished first (1996), fourth (1995), fifth (1998 and 1999), tied for fifth (1997 and 2009), sixth (1993, 2001 and 2003), tied for ninth (1994), tied for 11th (2005), tied for 17th (2008), tied for 18th (2007), tied for 21st (2004) and tied for 25th (2001) under 17th-year coach Randy">">Randy Lein in the NCAA Championship.

Jesper">">... Kennegard (So.), T9th, 2009, Toledo, Ohio
Alejandro"> Canizares (Fr.), 1st, 2003, Stillwater, Okla.
Chez">">Chez Reavie (Jr.), 9th, 2003, Stillwater, Okla.
Chez">">Chez Reavie (Fr.), T4th, 2001, Durham, N.C.
Paul">">Paul Casey (So.), 4th, 1999, Chaska, Minn.
Darren Angel (Jr.), T7th, 1998, Albuquerque, N.M.
Scott Johnson (Sr.), T10th, 1997, Chicago, Ill.
Chris Hanell (Sr.), T10th, 1997, Chicago, Ill.
Darren Angel (Fr.), T3rd, 1996, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Joey Snyder (Jr.), T5th, 1995, Columbus, Ohio
Scott Johnson (So.), T8th, 1995, Columbus, Ohio
Todd Demsey (Jr.), T7th, 1994, Dallas, Texas
Chris Hanell (Fr.), T10th, 1994, Dallas, Texas
Todd Demsey (So.), 1st, 1993, Lexington, Ky.

Pac-10 teams ASU (1996), Cal (2004), Stanford (2007 and 1994) and UCLA have won NCAA men's golf titles in the past 17 years. Other Pac-10 teams to win the title are: Stanford (1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1953), UCLA (1988) and Arizona (1992).

The NCAA does not keep stroke averages as official records, but research has come up with the following that will have to suffice as the top 15 single-season stroke averages in NCAA history through the 2008-2009 season.

1. Bill Haas, Wake Forest, 2003-2004, 68.93
2. Ryan Moore, UNLV, 2004-2005, 69.29
3. Ryan Moore, UNLV, 2003-2004, 69.38
4. Bryce Molder, Georgia Tech, 2000-2001, 69.43
5. Troy Merritt, Boise State, 2007-2008, 69.53
6. Charles Howell, Okla. St., 1999-2000, 69.57
7. Chris Nallen, Arizona, 2003-2004, 69.79
8. Daniel Summerhays, BYU, 2006-2007, 69.83
T9. Graeme McDowell, UAB, 2001-2002, 69.87
T9. Paul">">Paul Casey, Arizona St., 1999-2000, 69.87
11. Nick Watney, Fresno St., 2002-2003, 69.93
T12. Spencer Levin, New Mexico, 2004-2005, 69.95
T12. Phil">">Phil Mickelson, Arizona St., 1991-1992, 69.95
14. Mike Van Sickle, Marquette, 2008-2009, 70.00
15. Niklas">">Niklas Lemke, Arizona St., 2006-2007, 70.03

Yale, 13 NCAA champions, Tom Aycock, 1929
Harvard, 8, J.W. Hubbell, 1916
Houston, 8, Billy Ray Brown, 1982
Oklahoma State, 8, Jonathan Moore, 2007
Princeton, 7, G.T. Dunlap, 1931
Arizona State, 6, Alejandro"> Canizares, 2003
Texas, 6, Justin Leonard, 1994
Ohio State, 5, Clark Burroughs, 1985
USC, 4, Jamie Lovemark, 2007

ASU has made 16 NCAA Championship appearances in Randy">">Randy Lein's 17 years (1993-2009), tied for the second-best mark in the nation. Oklahoma State leads the way with 17, while Arizona and Florida also have 16 in that time. Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have 14 each. North Carolina and Texas have made it 13 times, while Auburn, Georgia, New Mexico and UNLV have done it a dozen times. UCLA is next with 11 appeareances.

ASU is the only school to win both the men's and women's golf titles in the same season (1990).

Counting its appearance in the 21 years a NCAA Regional has been staged (1989-2008), ASU has made 26 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, the sixth-longest active streak in the nation. ASU has advanced to the NCAA Championships 25 of the past 26 seasons (1984-2009), missing only in 2002, and in 44 of the past 46 seasons (1964-2009), missing prior to 2002 in 1983.

Oklahoma State, 1947-09, 63
USC, 1973-09, 37
Texas, 1978-09, 32
Clemson, 1982-09, 28
Arizona State, 1984-09, 26
Georgia Tech, 1985-09, 25
*Note: List includes NCAA Championship prior to 1989 and reaching at least NCAA Regionals from 1989-present.

Randy">">Randy Lein has finished in the top ten at the NCAA Championship 10 times in his 17 years at ASU, behind only Oklahoma State (12) and Clemson (11).

NCAA TOP-10 FINISHES (1993-2009)
School (National Titles), NCAA Top 10 Finishes
1. Oklahoma State (1995, 2000, 2006), 12
2. Clemson (2003), 11
T3. Arizona State (1996), 10
T3. Georgia Tech, 10
5. Florida (1993, 2001), 8
T6. Texas, 7
T6. Georgia, 7
T6. UNLV (1998), 7
T9. Arizona (1992), 6
T9. UCLA (2008), 6

Coach Randy">">Randy Lein has finished in the top five at the NCAA Championship six times in his 17 years, behind only Oklahoma State (10), Georgia Tech (seven) and Clemson (seven) in that time. Texas also has six top-five finishes, while Stanford, Georgia and Florida have five each.

Forty six players have earned their undergraduate degrees under 17th-year head coach Randy">">Randy Lein including former All-Americans such as Alejandro"> Canizares (B.I.S., Landscape Architecture/Sociology in 2006 and 2003 NCAA champion), Todd Demsey (B.A., Psychology in 1995 and 1993 NCAA Champion) and Jeff">">Jeff Quinney (B.S. Finance in 2002 and 2000 U.S. Amateur Champion). NCAA CHAMPIONS AS FRESHMAN
2007-Jamie Lovemark, USC
2006-Jonathan Moore, Oklahoma State
2003-Alejandro Canizares, Arizona State
1998-James McLean, Minnesota
1989-Phil Mickelson, Arizona State
1982-Billy Ray Brown, Houston
1974-Curtis Strange, Wake Forest
1971-Ben Crenshaw, Texas