After everyone encountered travel mayhem, the Richardson Lab all made it to the Evolution meeting in Portland, Oregon – presenting new work on rats, mice, beavers, muskrats and… frogs! Kerry and Georgi participated in the great undergraduate diversity program.
We finished up our ddRAD sequencing this month with the Munshi-South lab at Fordham. 200 new rats from Salvador, Brazil join our multi-city comparative landscape genetics project.
Jonathan visited Stonehill College to talk about landscape genetics and urban evolution during the weekly seminar in the Biology Department. It was great to finally see Stonehill and meet everyone in the department. Thank you to Nick Block and Bronwyn Bleakley for the invitation and stimulating discussions!
We are proud! The first two Richardson Lab alums are starting graduate school this month. Mary Burak (’15) is now a PhD student at Yale, using landscape genetics and spatial ecology to manage human-wildlife conflict in east Africa. Nikelle Petrillo (’16) is starting the graduate bioinformatics program at Northeastern University in Boston, looking at transcriptional regulation in human diseases. Good luck Mary and Nikelle!
Three Richardson Lab member presented at the Fordham Undergraduate Research Symposium in New York City. Laura Angley (’17) spoke about urban rats and the spatial distribution of their pathogens. Kerry Barrett (’18) shared results from her Peromyscus mouse landscape genetic analyses. Jonathan gave the keynote address on the importance of developing a tool set in the natural sciences. Coverage of the event can be found here.
Jonathan traveled to Salvador, Brazil to present spatial genetic data on urban rats for the Department of Health and Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases group. This study is part of a multi-year project to limit the ability of the Norway rat to move, persist and transmit leptospirosis to residents in Salvador.
Nikelle Petrillo (’16) presented her fantastic senior research project on salamander transcriptomics at the Evolution meeting in Austin, Texas. She highlighted some striking differences in gene expression levels based on evolutionary history and food level treatments in our experiment with Mark Urban at UConn.
The Richardson Lab is spending the summer in New York City. We will be working with Jason Munshi-South’s lab group at Fordham University on the urban landscape genetics of rats and their pathogens. Laura Angley (’17) and Kerry Barrett (’18) will be joining the first all-female cohort of REU students at the Fordham Calder Center!
Our paper published in The American Naturalist in 2015 received the 2016 Presidential Award from the American Society of Naturalists. From the announcement: “This paper by Urban and Richardson presents an elegant series of studies of how foraging rates have evolved in multiple populations of the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) that coexist with different types of predators… The paper crosses disciplinary boundaries by explicitly exploring how the ecological context of a population shapes the evolutionary pressures it experiences. The authors expound a clear set of theoretically justified and empirically testable predictions and describe the natural history of the system to set the biological stage for those predictions. They then present results from a series of observational studies to provide context. Finally, they present the results of a carefully designed experiment to rigorously test their predictions.” Thank you the ASN for their support, and Mark Urban for a fun and important study!
Jonathan attended the Rhode Island Land & Water Summit and presented on amphibian ecology during a workshop on using stormwater to create green infrastructure and amphibianhabitat. This meeting brings conservation groups, regulators, environmental leaders and politicians together to work on shared interests and problem solving of environmental issues. The stormwater workshop was organized by Greg Gerritt
of the Environmental Council of Rhode Island.
Molecular Ecology just published our article on navigating the pitfalls that have arisen during the rapid development of the field of landscape genetics. We highlight the weaknesses (as we see them) and provide some guidance for designing and conducting a landscape genetics study in a way that will maximize it’s insight and impact.
Our study on the breeding ecology of urban rats in Salvador Brasil has been published in the Journal of Heredity. The upshot is that it is common for multiple males to sire litters in these urban rat populations, and inbreeding levels are high – suggesting that eradication efforts may be having a measurable effect on genetic viability. This project was part of Mary Burak’s senior thesis project in the lab. Congrats Mary!
Jonathan finally had the chance to visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to give the weekly seminar in the Biology department. What an amazing place with a great diversity of research occurring in a beautiful location. Thank you to Andy Jones and Joel Llopiz for the invitation and hosting.
Jonathan visited the University of Vermont to give a seminar in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. The discussions were stimulating and the foliage amazing (there was time for some autumn leaf peeping, of course). Thank you to Steve Brady for the invitation and hosting.
Congratulations to Mary Burak for accepting a position in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department at Yale! She will be working in Gisella Caccone’s lab on the landscape genetics of tsetse flies, the main vector of sleeping sickness and nagana in Africa. Luckily for us, she will still be working with us on Norway rat genetics and the epidemiology of leptospirosis.
Jonathan & Mary were in Portland Oregon to present work on the genetics of Norway rat epidemiology at the IALE Landscape Ecology meeting this month. Jonathan presented in the landscape genetics symposium on Thursday and Mary had her poster presentation among the Urban Ecology section on Monday. They were able to kill two birds with one stone and also attend the World Domination Summit occurring just down the street.
Aeon magazine (a newer media-saavy outlet for a broad range of topics) published an article by Victoria Schlesinger on evolution occurring at very small geographic scales (i.e., neighboring populations). It focuses on much of the work going on in our lab here at PC. And the author does a great job in breaking down the details and significance of the research! You can find the article here.
Our forthcoming paper was highlighted by the American Society of Naturalists in their news press release. Their upshot on salamander feeding evolution: “The evolution of eating suggests that many genes determine how much we eat. Perhaps humans also evolved to eat more or less depending on whether we were stalked by large predators or needed to fight for every scrap of food with our neighbors.”
Our field season started with a long delay from the protracted winter, but we are wader-ed up and ready to sample ponds and survey mammal populations!
Eric and Tory traveled to New York to present their exciting effective population size data on wood frogs at the Eastern Colleges Research Conference. They represented the amphibians well among the nearly 200 presentations from more than a dozen participating institutions. Well done guys!
We received a Franklin Research Grant for our work on wildlife conservation genetics. Thank you to the American Philosophical Society for supporting our regional work.
Congratulations to Peter and Laura for being awarded Walsh Research Fellowships to support their research this coming summer on the landscape genetics of mammals in southern New England!
Our recent work on evolution occurring at microgeographic scales on the landscape was discussed in a Slate magazine article by Katie Langin – a fellow biologist studying fine-scale adaptation in scrub jays on Santa Cruz Island off the coast of California.
Jonathan had the chance to visit the University of Rhode Island and give the final seminar of the semester for the Biological Sciences department. It was great to meet with the faculty and students at URI and hear about the many interesting projects they’re doing. Thank you to Jason Kolbe for the invitation and for hosting.
Congratulations to Mary, Laura, John and Peter for each being awarded competitive grants from the Undergraduate Research Committee at Providence College! They will use these funds to work on landscape genetics in mice and to explore physiological adaptations in marbled salamanders.
The Richardson/PC Conservation Lab officially opens for business (well, research) this month at Providence College in Rhode Island. It’s an exciting time and I’ll be launching some new projects with small mammals in southern New England. We’ll also be starting a physiology experiment with the marbled salamanders… once this drought ends and the vernal ponds start filling again. So come visit our lab and see what we’re up to, either in person (Hickey Hall) or on the web (www.pcconservationlab.org)!