Happy New Year! I'm super excited to start the year off with a new semester and new course (for me to teach anyways!). I will teach an upper division general education and biology course (Evolution) in the Spring 2018 semester. As if that isn't enough, I am returning from maternity leave and now have a wonderful little newborn! This semester I will be working on developing my research lab, and searching for a limited number of students to join the lab. I'm still working on a catchy name and logo, so stay tuned for that!
In September our paper was published to ZooKeys on the taxonomy of American deer, a group some may mistakenly have thought was well understood. I participated in this project with Eliécer Gutiérrez among others while at the Smithsonian Institution. While there are many important findings in this paper, one of the most notable was that the taxonomy of deer has historically been almost exclusively based on morphological characters, which when compared with DNA sequencing resulted in highly different results. This just goes to show you even animals like white-tailed deer are not as well understood as we think! Check out the article here: https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.697.15124
Photo by Lee Fisher courtesy of Detroit Zoological Society.
Included in the deer phylogeny is the genus Pudu, the smallest deer in the world. Check out this adorable picture from the Detroit Zoo!
I am proud to announce that starting this fall my husband and I will be relocating to Northern California and I will be joining the faculty at Humboldt State University! I have accepted an assistant professor/mammal curator position with the Department of Biological Sciences. I am super excited to be part of such a great group of scientists, and begin a new adventure on the west coast! We will make an epic move this fall, spanning almost 3,000 miles from Northern Virginia to Northern California!
After a long time in the making Dr. Rachel Jacobs' manuscript on opsin gene variation in diurnal lemurs has been published! I was fortunate to participate in a minor role, and this is a really interesting paper which found multiple opsin gene alleles in sifakas and the indri, as opposed to the nocturnal (yet closely related) wooly lemurs. Glad to see this out, and proud to be part of such a neat paper! Click the link below to go to the Biology Letters website!
Despite our paper being accepted at the end of September, we are proud to show off a beautiful cover! The photograph was taken by Dr. Ed Louis Jr., of a female Lepilemur sahamalazensis with her baby. This species is found in NW Madagascar, in a very small range. Little is known on the behavior of this species in the wild.
The sportive lemurs (genus Lepilemur) are strange nocturnal animals which have limited dispersal ability and small home ranges. Those factors combine led us to use distributional records in combination with mitochondrial genomes to test for biogeographic patterns in these species.
Check out the paper here: doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esw072
As the new year begins I will be travelling to Madagascar for my second trip with the Henry Doorly Zoo and the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership. After planting one million trees in our reforestation efforts in and around the Kianjavato commune in SE Madagascar, we are on a fast pace to keep working toward reforesting the barren hillsides. While in Madagascar I will likely be visiting at least two (possibly more) of our field sites, and work with Malagasy students on various conservation projects. I'm excited to return to Madagascar, and quite frankly, it is not a bad time to escape the bitter cold Nebraska winter. :)
This morning I received an email from Dr. Robert Fleischer, head of my former genetics lab at the Smithsonian, with the announcement that I was awarded the first 'Emerging Scientist Award' at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institue holiday party. I am humbled by the award, as I was extremely fourtunate to spend six years working on my doctorate in the Center for Conservation Genomics. This lab really shaped my research interests, and taught me how to be a scientist. #OurLabBestLab
Thanks to everyone at the CCG that helped me through my dissertation research, you are the top of the field, and great people, I was so lucky to have convinced Jesús Maldonado to take me in as a student!
I am proud to announce that the African wild dog genome paper is now published! This study, led by Dr. Michael Campana, sequenced two complete genomes of African wild dogs, also known as painted dogs. The wild dogs are important carnivores in the African landscape, but have been declining due to human activity. The genome resources have detailed the degree of the decline, and show a different history between the individuals from Kenya versus South Africa. So glad I was able to participate in this exciting study! Thanks everyone, and congrats on another important paper for wildlife conservation!
Find the open access paper here: bmcgenomics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12864-016-3368-9
Five years ago the MBP embarked on a startling new challenge in southeast Madagascar- planting trees. Madagascar is renown for biodiversity and unique radiations of animals, but sadly also well known for the amount of forest lost to slash and burn agriculture. In order to protect the remaining animals, the MBP began a reforestation project, putting seedlings back on barren hillsides. This monumentus effort has culminated in the countdown to reach the one million tree mark, which will happen next week! The past year has been incredibly rewarding being part of a group that has such diverse interests, from empirical research, to education and outreach. I'm very fourtunate to be able to contribute to such an interesting project, aimed at helping not only the animals, but the people living in Madagascar! Congratulations to all of the researchers, students, technicians, and Malagasy working on this project, what a huge accomplishment!
Logo Design by: Brittani Robertson
Please take a minute out of your hectic schedule to check out a video detailing some of the reforestation efforts our group is working on in southeast Madagascar. We are planting to save the lemurs, the forest and the community. I'm so proud to be part of this team!
Missy is a geneticist, and field biologist who enjoys both observing mammals in their natural environment and combining that with DNA detective work.