We were honored to have Haldre Rogers join the lab during her visit this week. We are huge fans of Haldre -- not only did she give a phenomenal EEOB departmental seminar, but she hung out for a few days to work with us and connect with students. Each year that I teach my 'Conservation genomics' course, we partner with external collaborators to address a real-world conservation problem through our semester-long research projects. This year, one group has entered a collaboration with Haldre and her network of collaborators to better understand the ecology of bird loss in the Northern Mariana Islands. By the end of the year, we plan to report back on the diets of remnant bird populations using dietary DNA metabarcoding methods. We just finished PCR week, and Haldre joined us to do some pipetting!
Congratulations to Dr. Ezequiel Vanderhoeven for your Rufford Foundation Grant! Ezequiel plans to study infectious diseases circulating in populations of armadillo species native to the Argentinian Chaco. The goal of the study is to understand how diseases impact populations of these species for the benefit of conservation and to support local governments and communities in the adoption of environmental practices that minimize the risk of spillover. It is an extremely important and ambitious project. The Rufford award not only provides crucial financial support, but also represents a valuable endorsement of the work from a leading international authority on applied conservation biology.
I am very pleased and honored to know that the lab will be funded by an NSF CAREER Award (DEB-2046797). The award will support ongoing collaborations with Yellowstone National Park for the next five years! During this time we will use dietary DNA metabarcoding to analyze the diets and microbiomes of migratory large mammals and connect this information with what we learn from ecological field experiments to better understand plant-herbivore interactions in this amazing ecosystem. We are excited to support many, many students and early career researchers in the classroom, laboratory, and at Yellowstone in ways that foster growth and improve representation in the field. This award complements and extends what we hope to accomplish through our ongoing NSF EPCSCoR (OIA-2033823) award and increases our current level of NSF support to four active awards.
I will post information about the first new opportunities to join the lab and work on projects like this one over the course of this summer.
We are fortunate once again to have had an opportunity to work with some AMAZING researchers who are now graduating.
Congratulations to Amanda Lyons '20 Honors '21 MSc for completing her 5th year Master's degree! Amanda has been leading the northeastern terrapin genetics project in our lab for the past few years. Amanda's Honors thesis included some really insightful RADseq data obtained in collaboration with a whole host of governmental, non-profit, and academic partners. We expect the output to have a significant impact on conservation strategies and priorities for the turtle in the region.
Congratulations to Camille Tulloss '21 for earning Honors and a Senior Biology Prize for her graduation! Camille's thesis focused on the microbiomes of wild bison migrating across Yellowstone National Park. The work was a scientific and visual masterpiece, that seamlessly melded Camille's passion for research, scientific education, and illustration. We look forward to collaborating with Camille on this topic for years to come.
A quick note about our posts: Our lab's response to the pandemic was to focus in on supporting ourselves and one another. As a result, I have not been very good about publicly posting these sorts of milestones and accomplishments for the amazing people in the lab this year. The situation is still fluid, both locally and globally, but I aspire to post more regular updates going forward.
The lab has much to celebrate as we close out another semester, even despite the disruptions of COVID-19.
Chrishen Gomez is the recipient of a prestigious 2019 Merdeka Award Grant from Malaysia, which was established “to reward citizens and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in their respective fields to the people of Malaysia.”
Chrishen joins the lab for three months as a Visiting Research Associate affiliated with EEB. During his visit, Chrishen will collaborate on DNA-based analyses of animal diets and genetics. Chrishen aims to apply these approaches and his affiliation with the Bornean Carnivore Program to establish a conservation genetics research program that focuses on the Sunda Clouded Leopard in Malaysia.
Check out Chrishen's Merdeka Award acceptance speech to learn about his amazing research and conservation efforts in Borneo!
Last week, Amanda Lyons (left) and Bianca Brown (right) braved the rainy weather to kick off our terrapin field season. Diamondback terrapins are the only "critically imperiled" reptile in Rhode Island, and a major conservation priority for the state. Amanda and Bianca were joined by our collaborators from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and The Roger Williams Park Zoo. Our research goal is to understand how genetically interconnected are the remaining few terrapin populations in the state, and relatedness to populations from neighboring states. This research is supported in part by a 2019 Voss Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Environmental Science and Communication to Amanda Lyons. Congratulations Amanda, and thanks IBES for supporting this research.
If only the weather had been better for setting up the study sites!