The lab is thrilled to welcome Joselyne Chavez and Montana Stone to Brown! Both are keen to use combine ecological field experiments in with genomic lab technologies and computational approaches to advance our understanding of biology in a major way while also contributing to meaningful conservation. We couldn't be happier about the time we will get to have working with these top-notch scientists--they are both off to a great start!
I am extremely excited to share a new job opportunity as a core member of our group: Lab Manager in Ecological Genomics at Brown.
This is such a unique career opportunity in our field. The position will be salaried, starting around $60,000, and it is expected to provide job security, stability, and community over the long term. There will also be opportunities for career growth as we work together to establish a new Ecological Genomics center via Brown’s Genomics Core Facility. You will be able to help shape the future of your own position.
From an insider's perspective, we very rarely see opportunities as good as this one. The formal job ad is pasted below.
Please feel free to distribute via your networks or social media to help ensure any potential candidates you know may apply.
The lab is incredibly excited to welcome Mary Burak! Mary is joining the lab as a Fulbright Scholar based in Kenya followed by an IBES Voss Postdoctoral Fellowship. Together these prestigious awards will support Mary for three years both in Kenya and at Brown. Mary will collaborate with a number of major NGOs as well as scholars at the University of Nairobi, the National Museums of Kenya, and Mpala Research Centre to address critical data needs for the conservation of large carnivores and herbivores across Kenya.
Mary completed a PhD in Os Schmitz's lab at Yale University in 2023. She is a star and we are so keen to learn from her and collaborate with her over the next few years and beyond!
The paper led by Brian Gill on individual-level tracking of elephant diets -- Foraging History of Individual Elephants Using DNA Metabarcoding -- was just published by Royal Society Open Science. We are very proud of this paper, which revisits a set of classic studies on seasonal diet switching by elephants using stable isotopes in hair that were led by coauthors Thure Cerling and George Wittemeyer. The work was made possible with support in the field from Save the Elephants and with the botanical expertise of coauthor Paul Musili from the National Museums of Kenya.
The paper was accompanied by a great summary by Corrie Pikul and featured on the Brown University homepage: Similar to Humans, Elephants Vary What they Eat for Dinner.
The paper also attracted attention in the media, including interviews on BBC Television and Times Radio. Some nice coverage of the study was also provided by BBC (with hilarious photos), Newsweek, ZME Science, and The Times.
Beth just posted a much-anticipated BioRxiv preprint describing our new efforts to repurpose CRISPR technology in ways that might help overcome persistent drawbacks to PCR and other targeted enrichment strategies in molecular ecology (doi: 10.1101/2023.06.30.547247v1). We show that we can obtain highly accurate plant DNA barcodes and assemble entire chloroplast genomes. These advances could help with species identification, discovery, and the construction of DNA reference libraries for use in a variety of applications. Moreover, we show incredible accuracy when it comes to estimating the relative abundance of DNA from a mixture of species compared to typical PCR-based methods for DNA metabarcoding.
We hope the experimental methods will be of interest and that folks working in the field will see the great potential. Once scalable, these advantages could really transform the quality and completeness of many projects that we do in the lab -- and the kinds of project we know a lot of folks are out there trying to do around the world as well!
The approach was noted to be a potentially 'high risk / high reward' of the NSF CAREER award that supported our work. We'll update once it is peer-reviewed and published.
An exciting paper from the lab on lizard behavior, let by (former) undergraduate all-star Thomas Patti, appears today in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. The "Bite and Seek" paper focuses on the exploratory behaviors and bite force of the Podarcis lizard colony that we had on campus. Thomas and the team tested an extensive series of hypotheses about the relationship between behaviors observed in populations of this non-native lizard species and the recency of population establishment. All else equal, propensity for exploration might be expected to facilitate the establishment of new populations -- lizards have to explore at least a little to get somewhere new -- and thus recently founded populations should comprise groups of explorers. Not so in nature, Thomas reports, and this requires us to take a more nuanced view of behavioral 'syndromes' as sets of traits and behaviors that may be associated with invasion potential and success in non-native species. Great work Thomas, Colin, Andy, and Caroline!
Senior all-star Caroline Dressler won the 2023 Kidwell Prize! This is the top senior prize in our area of biology. Caroline was recognized for outstanding academics, a top-notch Honors thesis, consistent leadership at Brown, and a community-minded commitment to education. It was an honor to contribute to her journey -- we look forward to publishing more papers together and following her journey for years to come. Congrats, Caroline!
Congratulations to Andy Luo for a 2023 Fulbright Scholarship! On top of completing his Honors thesis and preparing to graduate, Andy can look forward to joining the amazing community of Fulbright scholars. During his program, Andy plans to teach English in Taiwan -- an amazing opportunity for a top-notch student.
Brown is typically among the top Fulbright-producing universities and Andy is the third Honors student from the lab to earn one. Amazing!
Congratulations to Robert Ang'ila for publishing a paper based on his Masters research in African Journal of Ecology! Robert's paper reports on spatial associations between the abundance and diversity of wildlife and understory plant communities across the massive CTFS-ForestGEO plot at Mpala Research Centre in Kenya. The work highlights how fine-scale variation in soil and topography can shape plant-herbivore interaction networks that play out over much broader scales. Great work, Robert!
Courtney has successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation! The dissertation is a complication of manuscripts that barely scratches the surface of the breadth of Courtney's wide-raging interests in mammalogy, ecology, functional morphology, and experimental biology! This summer, Courtney plans to leave Providence and begin an exciting postdoc at UC Santa Barbara in the lab of Deron Burkepile. Congratulations Courtney!!