Zebra Fish

Research Project | 2024

Integrating Environmental DNA and Epigenetics as a Novel Approach for Age Classification of Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a Model Organism.

Awardee: Madeleine Pacheco

Madeleine Pacheco (she/her) is a first year PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary
Biology Department under the supervision of Dr. Paul Barber at UCLA. Before coming to
UCLA, Madeleine graduated from UC Santa Barbara with degrees in Biology and
Environmental Studies. Broadly, Madeleine is interested in using genomic tools to investigate
marine community resilience, including expanding upon Environmental DNA (eDNA) methods
for assessing aquatic biodiversity. In addition, Madeleine strives to build a more inclusive
scientific community by cultivating equitable participation of underrepresented groups in the
fields of marine science and conservation.

Since detecting changes in our oceans can be challenging, it is imperative to improve the
efficiency of different tools, such as environmental DNA, as a novel method for biomonitoring.
Despite the many ecological insights gained from eDNA, a main critique of eDNA is the
inability to gather information on population structure. Precise information on population
demographics, such as age, provides estimates on population longevity and allows for proper
population conservation decisions. This project seeks to integrate the fields of eDNA and
epigenetics as a non-invasive method for distinguishing between age classes of aquatic species,
using zebrafish as a model organism.