Graduate Group in Ecology
University of California, Davis
Department of Animal Science
2403 Meyer Hall
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
BA, honors, Biology (Ecology & Evolution), Cornell University
MS, Biology (Ecology, Evolution & Conservation), San Francisco State University
Conservation genetics, environmental DNA (eDNA), molecular ecology, marine ecology, fish, crustaceans, plankton, food webs, predation, bats.
AAUS Research Diver (below, having fun at the Great Barrier Reef).
In order to conserve species, we have to know what’s there. Monitoring species establishes an baseline, tracks changes, and provides feedback to evaluate and improve conservation approaches. However, species in aquatic environments are hard to monitor. Some fish can swim away from trawls, while others may be hard catch because they are extremely rare. In addition, surveying fish from different habitats or life stages requires different sampling gear.
A relatively new method called environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling detects fish species with just a sample of water. Similar to forensic methods that sample trace amounts of DNA at a crime scene, we use a high-sensitivity DNA assay to detect the presence of rare species without directly sampling them. I am using an eDNA approach to detect endangered Delta Smelt in the San Francisco Estuary. In addition to better detection of Delta Smelt, eDNA poses a minimal risk of harm to fish and the environment. It may also be less expensive. However, eDNA detection in the San Francisco Estuary is particularly challenging because estuaries are very dynamic ecosystems.
To help develop eDNA as reliable approach for fish monitoring, my research seeks to improve eDNA methods and data interpretation in estuaries. With validation, eDNA detection of Delta Smelt could help inform conservation and management strategies in California. We are conducting experiments and field collections to validate and optimize eDNA detection of Delta Smelt.
The genetic methods I use such as quantitative PCR (qPCR) and high-throughput sequencing (HTS) have broad application in conservation and management of aquatic species and ecosystems. My MS research (Kimmerer Lab, San Francisco State/Romberg Tiburon Center) used HTS to study plankton food webs in the Cache Slough Complex of the San Francisco Estuary. I was recently funded by the Yolo Basin Foundation to study bat diets in our region using genetics. Stay tuned for more on this project in 2019!
Connect with me on twitter @planktonherder
“Experimental work informs Delta Smelt environmental DNA (eDNA) protocol development” at Bay Delta Science Conference (September 10-12, 2018), Best Student Presentation Award
“Environmental DNA (eDNA) Protocol Development for Rare Fish in Turbid Estuaries” at American Fisheries Society annual meeting (August 19-23, 2018), oral presentation
Interagency Ecological Program Annual Workshop (March 6-8, 2018), poster
Ecological Society of America (August 6-11, 2017), late-breaking poster session
Water Quality Health Indicator and Data Science Symposium, Cal EPA Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (June 29-30, 2017), invited presentation and poster
Interagency Ecological Program Annual Workshop (March 3, 2017), invited presentation
Bay Delta Science Conference (November 15, 2016), presentation and poster
Kimmerer, W., Ignoffo, T. R., Bemowski, B., Modéran, J., Holmes, A., & Bergamaschi, B. (2018). Zooplankton Dynamics in the Cache Slough Complex of the Upper San Francisco Estuary. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, 16(3).