Rasmus Nielsen, Professor

Closed (1) Using eDNA to study the ecological impacts of introduced trout

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Environmental DNA is an incredible resource that allows us to capture data about whole communities efficiently and non-invasively. We can use eDNA to understand taxa's occupancy and also carefully leverage this tool to gain an understanding of the relative abundance of species across a study landscape. With this project, we aim to employ eDNA to study introduced trout's impact on high elevation stream communities in the Peruvian Andes, with a special focus on their impact on native amphibian species. Rainbow Trout, a North American species, can be voracious predators both of amphibian eggs and tadpoles but also of invertebrates that may be important prey items for amphibians. Therefore, it is important that we understand how the widespread and unregulated introduction of trout influences the world's number one hotspot of amphibian diversity!

Undergraduates applying for this project should be interested in molecular laboratory approaches, bioinformatics, ecology, and preferably in frogs and in conservation biology. We will regularly read and discuss articles that will give us a proper background in the relevant disciplines to this project. We will start by using various bioinformatic approaches to inform and plan the work we'll conduct in the lab, before proceeding to very carefully initiate labwork on this sensitive sample set. The final stage of this project will be using resultant sequencing data to interpret the occupancy and abundance of taxa of interest across the study landscape, then to employ that occupancy and abundance data to ask our ecological questions about trout's impact.

You will have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Rasmus Nielsen to discuss your work and ask questions, and are encouraged to attend weekly Nielsen Lab meetings throughout the year. However, you must be responsible about staying true to the time commitment you have made, you must be prepared to be entirely focused on the current task when you are using the laboratory space, and you must be conscientious about asking questions whenever you are uncertain about any aspect of the work at hand.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Emma Steigerwald, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Students should have completed or be currently enrolled in at least one semester of undergraduate coursework in the biological sciences (e.g. Biology 1B). Freshman and beyond may apply.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: https://emmacsteigerwald.wixsite.com/mysite
Related website: https://nielsen-lab.github.io/research/