‘How things relate’: Dalehite and Irelan explored pairings in evolutionary biology for their senior thesis projects

June 2, 2022

Princeton senior Katherine Irelan spent two months in summer 2021 walking the slopes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park searching for specimens of the native shrub pūkiawe (Leptecophylla tameiameiae) for her senior-thesis research on how the plant allies with soil fungi to thrive in different environments and climates. Her work was inspired by the element of nature that has always captivated her the most, namely, as Irelan said, “how things relate to one another, and in these really intricate and complicated ways.” 

That same summer, Willow Dalehite combed different woodlands around Princeton listening for the call-and-response mating song of the Carolina wren, which she describes as “little and brown, with a pretty severe white eyebrow.” Carolina wrens are difficult to spot in the forest, but Dalehite was able to take advantage of their loud calls to locate them for her senior-thesis research investigating the evolutionary function of their song. “Their song is very loud for such a small creature,” she said. “It echoes through the forest, which makes it easier to follow them around.”