Michael Nachman, Professor

Closed (1) The genetic basis of speciation in house mice

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Understanding how new species arise is a fundamental problem in evolutionary biology. We are studying the genetic details of speciation using two subspecies of house mice that exhibit partial but not complete reproductive isolation. In an on-going, two-year experiment, we have combined mice from both subspecies in large, outdoor enclosures, thus creating experimental hybrid populations. By allowing the mice to interbreed for ten generations (about two years) and sequencing the genomes of the descendants, we hope to identify the genes contributing to reproductive isolation.

Undergraduate students are being recruited to help with all aspects of this research, including (1) monitoring mice on a daily basis at the field site which is located in the Berkeley hills above campus, (2) sampling tissue from young mice on a weekly basis, (3) laboratory work to extract DNA from tissues and prepare samples for sequencing. Students will have the opportunity to gain training in evolutionary biology and genetics, experimental design, mouse husbandry, and molecular biological techniques. An overall expected outcome is to develop scientific skills and help prepare for a career in science. Sufficiently motivated and talented students may be able to develop independent thesis projects within the context of this research.

Qualifications: We are particularly interested in recruiting students who are entering their junior year or earlier, with the hope that they will remain involved for the two-year duration of the project. Some background in evolution and genetics is desirable. Students must be responsible, highly motivated, and interested in handling wild mice. Previous coursework in organismal biology (like IB 104) or experience working with wild animals is a plus. The field site is in the hills close to campus. For students who cannot provide their own transportation, it is possible to take a campus bus to the site.

Weekly Hours: 9-11 hrs

Related website: http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/nachman/index.html

Closed (2) Skeletal variation in house mice: do tropical mice have longer tails than temperate mice?

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

House mice (Mus musculus domesticus) have recently colonized the Americas (~500 years ago), and as a result, they have inhabited a wide variety of environments. For example, house mice can be found from the tropics to the arctic, and populations inhabiting these different environments have adapted to different thermal regimes. The Nachman lab currently has 5 colonies of house mice collected across these various environments. This project is specifically studying the effects of cold on skeletal and morphological variation between house mice collected from Brazil (tropical) and New York (temperate). In an on-going, one-year experiment, we are placing both populations of house mice in a cold room and measuring the effects of cold on body size and tail length on a weekly basis over the duration of the experiment. The end goal is to identify differences in body size and tail length at the morphological and skeletal levels.

Undergraduate students are being recruited to help with all aspects of this research, including (1) CT scanning skeletons of house mice to assess variation in tail length, (2) measuring mice on a weekly basis to assess morphological differences over time, and (3) sampling tissue from mice on a monthly basis. Students will have the opportunity to gain training in evolutionary biology, experimental design, CT scanning, and mouse husbandry. An overall expected outcome is to develop scientific skills and help prepare for a career in science. Sufficiently motivated and talented students may be able to develop independent thesis projects within the context of this research, along with co-authorship on a peer-reviewed scientific paper.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Mallory Ballinger, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: I am particularly interested in recruiting students who are at least entering their sophomore year, with the hope that they will remain involved for the one-year duration of the project. Some background in evolution is desirable. Students must be responsible, highly motivated, and interested in handling wild mice. Previous coursework in organismal biology (like IB 104 or IB 173) or experience working with wild animals is a plus.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: https://www.malloryaballinger.com/