Rosemary Gillespie, Professor

Closed (1) Dimensions In Biodiversity: Morphological and Molecular Genetic and Ecological Approaches to Community Assembly in Hawaiian Spiders and Insects

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

This exciting new project looks at how communities of organisms come together, and the role of ecology (migrating into a community, trophic level) and evolution (adaptation and speciation) in determining the composition of species in a community. This in turn will provide information on sensitivity to invasion and probability of speciation and extinction. To achieve our goal we are focusing on insects and spiders in Hawaii and combining a broad ecological approach based on species assembly and interaction patterns, with an evolutionary approach that examines how a given species group adapts, multiplies, or declines over time. The first approach addresses the diversity and abundance of species at a site and what are the kinds of predator-prey or other interactions between species. The second approach allows assessment of the rate at which a given lineage of organisms can adapt and diverge, including changes in abundance through time, and how the microbial community with which it is associated, may have changed.

Undergraduates involved in this project would be working on the the questions of evolutionary change and adaptation in different groups of Hawaiian insects and spiders, using either molecular or morphological approaches. For the morphological work, they will be sorting specimens (insects and spiders) to size in order that they can be used to understand how species composition changes across sites. For the molecular work, students will be trained generally in the lab, and in particular on Next Generation sequencing technologies, to measure evolutionary change. Techniques include: pcr, DNA/RNA extraction, next-generation sequencing methods, basic bioinformatics, sequence assembly/annotation. Learning Outcomes: This will depend on the part of the project with which the student becomes involved, and may include competency in microscopic work, familiarity with modern biological laboratory, and/ or computational techniques.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Natalie Graham, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Students should have completed or be currently enrolled in at least one semester of undergraduate coursework in the biological sciences, and should have an interest in island biology.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website:

Closed (2) Chemical Recognition Cues in an Adaptive Radiation of Hawaiian Spiders

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

The mechanisms by which reproductive isolation evolves and is maintained in adaptive radiations are central to understanding the fundamental processes of evolution. Particularly important are situations where ecologically distinct incipient sister species co-occur geographically, necessitating finely tuned recognition mechanisms for species to maintain reproductive isolation. Chemical cues are one of the most ancient and widespread modalities of communication, yet their importance in species recognition and reproductive isolation remains largely unknown.

The overarching aim of this project is to focus on the role of chemical species recognition cues in reproductive isolation and speciation within an adaptive radiation of Hawaiian Tetragnatha spiders in which ecologically distinct sister species co-occur, and visual and auditory cues appear to play little or no role in species recognition during mating. By synthesizing techniques in chemical analysis (extractions using solvents and SPME fibers) and behavioral evaluations (2-choice y-shaped olfactometer trials, bioassays and more), this project will explore the role of chemical signaling as a mode of species recognition in an adaptive radiation.

For more information, visit our websites listed below!!

Undergraduates that take part in this project will be using a variety of techniques to explore the questions of species boundaries and chemical communication in the Tetragnatha spider lineage. Depending on the proficiency, interests, and availability of the student, they will have the opportunity to:

1) Conduct behavioral assays using a y-shaped olfactometer,
2) Extract spider pheromones using different solvents,
3) Analyze the chemical extracts using a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS),
4) Analyze video footages to score and collect data, and
5) Utilize morphological approaches to identify spiders under a microscope.

Students will also partake in the husbandry of spiders, which include tasks such as feeding, tracking of development, and maintenance of food supply colonies. Furthermore, if applicable, students will have an opportunity to gain field experience conducting behavioral observations and collecting specimens at local UC Reserves.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Ashley Adams, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Students must be comfortable working with live animals (specifically terrestrial arthropods of all kinds). They must be careful, attentive, and meticulous with their work and ready to learn at all times!

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website:
Related website:

Closed (3) Biodiversity of beetles in the Valdivian temperate rain forests of Chile

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2017 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2017.

The Valdivian temperate rain forests ecoregion is located mostly in Chile and extending into a small part of Argentina. It is recognized globally for its biological distinctiveness, and has been placed at the highest priority for conservation on a regional scale and has been ranked number two of the world’s five major temperate rainforest ecosystems by Conservation International. The Valdivian forests contain many unusual species and higher taxa, and represent a unique assemblage of species, both floral and faunal, which today persist as relicts of Gondwana. Such species are often key to understanding evolution in many taxonomic groups. This region is extremely vulnerable to deforestation and development and Valdivian forests are in danger of disappearing soon carrying with them all the natural history of the species they supported. Inventories are urgently needed to preserve a snapshot of the biota in these hotspots and taxonomy is needed to provide the reference system and framework on which measures of biodiversity are based.

We are looking for a part-time assistant students interested in conducting morphological work with beetle specimens from Chile in the Essig Museum of Entomology. The project involves: (1) Working with dried insect collections. (2) Printing labels from prior field trips. (3) Labeling sorted material. And (3) research and editing grants for a crowdfunding project. The time required for this work is flexible, with an expected 4-10 hours maximum.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Elizabeth Arias, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: Students should have completed at least one year of undergraduate coursework in the biological sciences, and should have an interest in beetles and conservation biology.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website:

Closed (4) Evolutionary origins and biogeography of the Hawaiian peppers (Piperaceae: Peperomia)

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

The Hawaiian archipelago represents an ideal model system to study the interplay of evolution and ecological processes. The isolation of the archipelago (nearly 4,000 km from the nearest continent) has lead to the prominent role of in-situ diversification in shaping the unique flora of the islands. This has resulted in the many documented extraordinary adaptive radiations of various plant lineages, and the extraordinarily high uniqueness of the local flora; over 90% of flowering plant species on Hawaii are found nowhere else on Earth!

The project is a molecular phylogenetic study of the Hawaiian peppers, which are among one of the largest radiations of vascular plants on the archipelago, as well as an investigation into their patterns of dispersal across the Pacific and the drivers of their evolutionary success!

The main project will be to help optimize and design a primer set for phylogenomic purposes. This will provide an introduction and training in the most basic and essential of molecular techniques such as PCR and DNA extractions from leaf tissue. Nevertheless, there will also be some scope for working with plant specimens (e.g., mounting plants onto herbarium sheets, looking after the living Hawaiian pepper collection in the greenhouses, georefering and databasing).

1) Molecular work and sequencing (basic molecular techniques – DNA extraction, PCR etc)
2) Georeferencing and databasing of Peperomia specimens at the UC and Jepson Herbarium

Depending on the specific aspect of the project, students will learn the basic molecular techniques, as well as downstream skills such as collection curation and databasing.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Jun Ying Lim, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Applicants should be organized, proactive and possess an interest in phylogenetics and/or biogeography. Some background and interest in botany and/or plant ecology would be recommended but not required (the ideal candidate will have taken at least one or all of the following courses IB 200a, IB200b, IB 154). Prior background in molecular techniques would be highly desirable but training will be provided!

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated