Research

I fell in love with animals, biology, and the study of evolution at a young age.

Every time I visited my family in Hawai'i, my fascination was kindled further. I was simply awed by the unique forms of life around me, how much biodiversity had been generated in such a short timeframe, and how improbable the proliferation of life across the ocean on these tiny, tenuous islands seemed.

What equally interested and saddened me were the extinctions that have plagued Hawai'i, as well as the animals that were still declining or struggling.

Today, the same topics of island evolution, biodiversity, and conservation still fascinate me. In my undergraduate research, I studied the California Channel Islands system's island fox, and plan to revisit this system to study the island deer mouse.

Scientists have often described islands as 'natural laboratories', in which similar organisms adapt to a variety of environments. These kinds of systems (most famously the Galapagos) have led to a wealth of discoveries in the patterns and mechanisms for how evolution works as a whole.

I will leverage the 'genetic libraries' available in museum specimens of island deer mice to tease out the specific demographic history and population genetics of these subspecies. I am excited to answer the basic questions of how animals evolve, how island ecosystems affect evolution, and how changes in the genome and morphology correlate.

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Map of the Channel Islands

Lencer, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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Island deer mouse (Peromyscus subspp.)

National Park Services

Sampling island deer mouse specimens
at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum
for future genomic analysis

Past Research

Projects

Cetacean skulls with Dr. McGowen at NMNH
James Di Loreto, Smithsonian Institution

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Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) pelt I prepared for NMHLAC after sampling the specimen for scat

Sage Grouse Cecal Metagenomics

GMU Lab Rotation

I worked with Dr. Haw Chuan Lim at GMU's EvoGenomics Lab for a semester on sage grouse metagenomics, processing genetic data and performing analysis on shotgun sequences taken from the grouse cecum using the metaWRAP pipeline. Data analysis still in progress but preliminary results have been tweeted!

Dolphin Systematics

NSF NHRE Internship

Summer 2019, I participated in an NSF-REU at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, working with Dr. Michael McGowen on the systematics and phylogeography of dolphins (subfamily Delphininae), with a focus on the morphotypes of the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). For this project, I conducted bioinformatics work, assembling mitochondrial genomes and generating phylogenetic trees. The poster I presented for this internship is now on the NHRE website.

Island Fox Microbiome Analysis

USC Undergraduate Research

For three years, I was involved with Dr. Nicole Adams's island fox (Urocyon littoralis) dissertation work on genetic bottlenecks and the fecal microbiome in Dr. Suzanne Edmands's lab, As part of this project, I performed 16S DNA extraction/amplification/library prep techniques and conducted computational genetic data analysis (Mothur, Qiime). Check out our paper in Frontiers!

Other Projects

Taxonomy Curation: Mammal Diversity Database

For the past year, I've been a student research assistant for the American Society of Mammalogists' Mammal Diversity Database, dedicated to documenting the taxonomies for all the new and known mammals in the world. By hosting an open and comprehensive taxonomy site, we hope to make the latest information on mammal taxonomy easily accessible to everyone.

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Urocyon skull

Specimen Preparation: Natural History Museum of LA County

Museum collections harbor invaluable genetic material from the past, allowing researchers to better understand the state of populations in the present. I will utilize museum specimens as the cornerstone of my research project. To contribute to collections, I prepared numerous mammalian study skins and skeletons, including the pictures shown on this website. I'm proudest of Lincoln, a koala from the LA Zoo (homepage header).