Amherst Magazine

Work in Progress

By Caroline J. Hanna

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The way to a female’s heart: How do female purple-throated carib hummingbirds choose mates? Food. “The females prefer to mate with males that have large amounts of nectar in their flowers,” says Ethan Temeles, professor of biology, whose ongoing research on purple-throated caribs provides strong support for Charles Darwin’s theories of natural and sexual selection. For example, Temeles and a colleague recently found that male purple-throated caribs are larger than their female counterparts in part because of the males’ aggressive interactions with one another. “It is the larger male who will win a fight with a smaller male—and thus win the right to reproduce, which is exactly what Darwin hypothesized would happen,” Temeles says. “To confirm what we thought by seeing such fights associated with the amount of nectar in males’ flowers, and then seeing females choosing and mating with males that have the most nectar, was amazing. It was the best two and a half months I’ve ever spent in a rain forest.”

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Holistic hip-hop: Elias Aba Milki ’10 will soon leave for South Africa, Brazil and Uganda to study how artists have transformed hip-hop music into a holistic tool for healing. Specifically, he’ll examine HIV awareness efforts of the South African radio station Bush Radio, the Central Unica das Favelas’ programs treating social illness in Brazil and work by the Hip-Hop Therapy Project to reduce trauma among war-affected youth in Uganda. Born in New York, Aba Milki, a biochemistry and black studies major, spent most of his childhood in Ethiopia and also lived in Pakistan and spent time in Tanzania and Vietnam. When being a foreigner in these societies was hard, he says, hip-hop comforted him and helped him make friends. “When I had no one else to talk to, hip-hop truly understood me.” A $25,000 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship will fund his year-long project.

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