Student NameEnrique Gutierrez
Faculty Mentor NameDr. Marta Wayne
CollegeLiberal Arts and Sciences
MajorBiology, Spanish
Research InterestsGenetics & Genomics, Evolutionary Genetics, Mutations, Host-Parasite Interactions, Virology, Drosophila melanogaster, Danaus plexippus
Academic AwardsDean's List
OrganizationsEmerging Leaders in Science Policy and Advocacy (ELISPA)
Hobbies and InterestsCooking, Drawing, Reading, Playing guitar, Taking care of pets, Politics

Research Project

Melanin Color Saturation in Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies are a well-known migratory insect; they travel from Mexico, throughout the United States, and to Canada for reproduction Understanding how they are able to travel is related to their metabolism. As ectotherms, they require that their heat comes from an outside source: most notably, the sun’s solar energy. To aid in the absorption of heat, melanin is present within the pattern of their colorful wings. While the bright orange colors have made this species of butterfly famous, the main interest of my research project is focused on the dark pigments on the wings’ veins. A caterpillar born and reared in a colder natural environment, like Canada, is thought to have darker pigmentation on the wings once it turns into a butterfly. More pigmentation on the wings will allow for more heat to be absorbed into the body from the surrounding areas. A caterpillar born and reared in a naturally warmer environment, like Mexico, is thought to develop lighter pigmentation, as there is less of a need to be excessively dark to absorb thermal energy. Investigating the origin of butterflies may provide insight into the saturation and/or quantity of melanin present within populations from varying climates.