The Effects of Inbreeding on Captive Cheetahs
Advisor: Dr. Kim Hoke, Colorado State University
My undergraduate thesis stemmed from my passion for genetics and my experience as a volunteer at the Denver Zoo. Cheetahs are well known for their lack of genetic diversity caused by a genetic bottleneck roughly 10,000 years ago. This has led to many questions in regards to the viability of the species, particularly their immune systems. As with any animal species kept in captivity, breeding programs for cheetahs seek to strengthen the species. Using studbook data, I sought to track the survivorship of infant cheetahs across time in relation to the level of inbreeding experienced in a captive environment.
Genome Size Evolution in Salamanders
Advisor: Dr. Rachel Mueller, Colorado State University
Several salamanders exhibit genomes of extraordinarily large size. How the genomic DNA and mitochondrial DNA have evolved in such systems and how the patterns relate to each other remain largely unknown. As an NSF REU, I worked to develop nuclear markers and optimize mitochondrial markers in salamanders (genus Aneides). These markers will be used in order to help solidify the phylogeny and evolutionary history of the six recognized species.
The Conflict between Humans and Elephants
Advisor: Sarah Day Maisonneuve, Colorado State University
Poaching of elephants for ivory remains a problem in many areas of Africa. Reserves have been established in order to protect elephants, however, farmers living on the edges of reserves lose much of their crop to elephants every year. In order to decrease illegal poaching of elephants and reduce crop loss, villagers were not only educated to appreciate wildlife, but also in techniques to prevent farm raids by elephants (use of chili peppers, etc). This project has since blossomed into the Wildlife Connection Organization.