Advisor: Richard Prum
With funding from the Environmental Studies Internship Program, The Yale Peabody Internship Program, The Yale College Dean's Fellowship Program, the Richter Summer fellowship, the Tetelman Summer traveling fellowship, and the Yale Science and Engineering Association, I hope to pursue a summer and sr year research project in collaboration with Professor Gisella Caccone, PhD (EEB), Dr. Kristof Zyskowski (Collections Manager of the Peabody Museum, Division of Vertebrate Zoology), and Professor Richard Prum PhD (EEB) as an advisor. Over the summer I will conduct a preliminary genetic study of several representative avian taxa to determine if genetic differentiation has occurred among recently geographically isolated populations from the Sipaliwini Savanna of Suriname. The results of recent Yale Peabody Museum surveys of Sipaliwini Savanna imply the existence of past connections between current islands of savanna in South America (Mittermeier et al, in prep). This hypothesis, however, has not yet been tested with molecular markers, which would provide a significant level of support.
Voucher specimens collected by the Peabody Museum expeditions provide the unique opportunity to test hypotheses of genetic relatedness of bird species found among savanna islands. Using mitochondrial DNA from these specimens, levels of genetic differentiation between geographic groups will be determined. Working in Professor Caccone’s genetics lab, I will learn how to preserve tissue samples and how to extract DNA from different tissue sources (blood, liver, muscle, toe clippings). The majority of a summer internship will include PCR amplifications with available primers, DNA sequencing reactions, DNA chromatograph interpretation, and analysis of DNA sequences in a phylogeographic framework using a variety of statistical programs. The data from this project will help us to understand the evolutionary dynamics behind genetic differentiation.
Another goal of this experience is the integration of field and molecular work. Given that Dr. Zyskowski is preparing a collecting expedition to Bolivia, I will likely have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in South America to collect additional, fresh samples. In planning for this fieldwork (July 2009), I will be able to use the skills I have recently learned at the Yale Center for Earth Observation to identify sampling areas using satellite image data, incorporating GIS data to field collection of DNA samples. This will require extensive utilization of GPS data from the ground. Collection of morphological, behavioral, and photographic data will further supplement the genetic lab component. This research will be pursued into my senior year, to complete my BS (intensive) degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.