Speciation and Population Differentiation
Canyon treefrogs were the subject of my PhD dissertation. They camouflage very well with the rocky habitat they live in. Perhaps this explains why they have been easily overlooked by researchers :) However, my work found that they have a very interesting story to tell. With a combination of molecular phylogenetics and behavioral experiments, I found extensive genetic and behavioral differences throughout their range, but patterns of differentiation were not always as expected. To learn more about my research with them, click here.
Invasive Species Detection with Environmental DNA (eDNA)
Establishment of non-native species, can lead to ecological and economical damage in the introduced range. Asian Carps have become established in the Mississippi River Basin and its tributaries in the U.S.. They are believed to be a severe threat for native species. Furthermore, there is a concern that these fish will invade the Great Lakes, and potentially cause damage to economically important fisheries. Early detection of these invasive species is important in order to successfully prevent their establishment. I am working with a team of scientists from several agencies to understand how a new tool (environmental DNA) can lead to better detection of their presence. To find out more, click here.
Invertebrate Invaders in the Great Lakes
I designed high throughput DNA sequencing assays to detect over 60 different invasive or potentially invasive, invertebrate species in the Laurentian Great Lakes from eDNA samples. From zebra and quagga mussels to spiny water fleas and demon shrimp, the goal is to design these assays to detect a variety of species while retaining the relative abundance information, assuming that the amount of eDNA correlates with species' abundances.
Wild Elephant Microbiome
Microorganisms living in the vertebrate gut form a symbiotic relationship with their host by helping in nutrient uptake and digestion, and thus they have played a major role in the evolution of mammalian herbivores. Given the intimate relationship between microbiota and host, microbial composition likely varies by a number of factors including diet, habitat, behavior and evolutionary history of the host. In this study we assessed the gut bacterial diversity of two African elephant species, the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the savanna elephant (L. africana). Besides assessing whether or not differences exist with respect to evolutionary history, habitat and diet differences, we also analyzed samples from crop raiding savanna elephants to assess if this behavioral difference resulting in altered diet could also affect gut microbiota. Whereas many recent studies have focused on controlled populations and environments, our study assessed microbial communities from wild populations. Using high throughput genetic sequencing of fecal samples, we found significant differences among the two species, but no difference with regard to habitat or crop raiding behavior.
Captive Breeding of Frogs in Madagascar
A few years ago I responded to a request on a job board for a volunteer to help provide statistical and experimental design guidance for an amphibian captive breeding program in Andasibe, Madagascar. In conjunction with the Association Mitsinjo, I have been working with their amphibian specialists on helping them design experiments to address the optimal conditions needed for breeding and raising several Madagascar frog species. Captive breeding programs are becoming very important resources for conservation programs, acting to preserve the biodiversity of a region and eventually reintroducing populations in hopes to prevent extinction of these species.