At a young age, Eduardo Duro was always into animals and liked nature. His curiosity led him to raising butterflies.
Right now, as an undergraduate junior studying biology and chemistry, Eduardo is raising over 30 caterpillars in his home and is expecting to raise well over a hundred butterflies for his summer research project.
Duro, who is one of the recipients for the Advanced Summer Research Scholarship from IU Undergraduate Research (IUUR), aims to research how calcium signaling can interact with biological components and proteins to alter gene expression in response to environment and temperature.
While younger, Duro collected butterflies and has always been interested in their wing patterns and how they evolve.
A native Indiana species Junonia coenia (common buckeye) butterfly is a common species in Indiana known for its brown coloration and large eyespots. A similar species Junonia evarete found in South America has almost the same appearance but shows blue structural coloration.
There are various implications for structural blue coloration ranging from mimicry to environment response. This blue coloration is not caused by a pigment but by the microstructure of the wing scales which reflects blue light.
Since butterflies have the ability to produce more melanin, as an adaptation for colder climates. As butterflies enter their pupa stage, that is when the butterfly is encased in a chrysalis and undergoes metamorphosis.
During this stage, butterflies will adapt a darker color because of colder temperatures. This darker color allows for butterflies to absorb sunlight to get warmer faster to adapt and maximize flight time.
The first stage of Duro’s research focuses on injecting chemical compounds into the chrysalis to see how butterflies adapt their wings. Butterflies can alter their pigment and scale structure in response to environmental and temperature change.
By using butterflies, Duro can mimic these natural occurrences and understand their connection to calcium signaling. His research focuses on understanding how calcium signaling can help regulate adaptation and gene expression in other organisms.
Duro’s extensive butterfly rearing background allows him to expand his research.
“I just find it just very interesting to see how these changes in how proteins are able to sense temperature could be very applicable to a wide ray of organisms… even humans,” Duro said. “With butterflies, their very colorful wings have a pattern, it’s like a canvas. You can see when one stroke changes.”
Because of COVID-19, Duro is running these chemical trials but can’t complete the genetic and other parts of his research until he is back in the lab.
Duro plans to continue his research project till the end of his senior year when he graduates. His interest in genetics and how genes interact would be something he’d be interested in doing in medical school.
As a freshman, Duro joined a lab with professor and lab director W. D Tracey. During this time, Duro focused on doing research on expression of neuron genes in Drosophila. Thanks to this research, he was able to transfer his skills and knowledge to his current research now.
With the help of undergraduate lab member Katie Fisher, Duro understood how to project the characterizing smoke alarm gene during this first year of lab.
Now, Duro can investigate potential roles of calcium and see how calcium interacts within the pupa in response to environmental factors. To do this, Duro uses a confocal microscope with Fluo indicator dyes, but to do this he will need to head back to the lab.
Meanwhile, Duro can investigative calcium signaling by injecting calcium interacting chemicals with the intent of imagining them later on.
“Although I wasn’t doing research on butterflies at the beginning, I was definitely gaining the skills to doing the research I’m doing now,” Duro said.
Duro’s current research is particularly new for researchers at IU but is still receiving both support on his project by principal investigator (PI) Dr. Tracey and postdoctoral fellow mentor Lydia Hoffstaetter.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this without the mentors I have,” Duro said. “I would definitely recommend research for students who are interested in it, but I would also suggest checking out all the labs and seeing which actually you are interested in.”
For students like Duro interested in conducting research over the summer, IUUR is a great place to get guidance and connect with other students and faculty.
“In the end you’re going to spend a lot of time on this research and if it’s not something you’re interested in; you’re not going to make the progress you’d want to make,” Duro said.
IUUR provides scholarships to help undergraduate researchers spend their summers undertaking original research or creative projects with help of faculty and staff.
To learn more about IUUR and how to get involved visit: https://undergradresearch.indiana.edu/programs-funding/index.html