Awardees: Meixi Lin and Ana Garcia Vedrenne

Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Ana: I became fascinated with the ecology of parasites while pursuing my PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at UCSB. Now, as an UPLIFT postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Robert Wayne’s lab at UCLA, my goal is to use DNA meta-barcoding to identify and quantify parasite and pathogen biodiversity in California ecosystems. I am also developing curriculum for the new Environmental DNA for Science Investigation and Education Program.

Meixi: I am a second year PhD student in the Wayne Lab at UCLA. I have been intrigued by how molecular biology tools could help resolve previously impossible wildlife conservation puzzles. I have extensive DNA meta-barcoding and molecular ecology experiences and am excited to collaborate with Ana to explore means to save these foxes.

Project Description: 

This study will inform management actions necessary to prevent parasite-induced extinction of San Miguel island foxes (Urocyon littoralis littoralis). Our main goal is to elucidate the life cycle of an unidentified acanthocephalan parasite that has likely been introduced recently to endemic island fox populations and is causing rapid population declines. First, we will use DNA meta-barcoding to accurately characterize the fox diet and identify possible intermediate hosts for this parasite. Second, we will use this simple host-parasite system to further DNA meta-barcoding methods for parasite detection and quantification.