Awardee: Robert Cooper
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Bio: My name is Robert Cooper and I am a PhD student in the Shaffer and Grether labs at UCLA. I am interested in using quantitative techniques to answer basic and applied conservation questions. Specifically I use genomics to understand the ecological and evolutionary consequences of recent hybridization between the endangered California tiger salamander and a non-native salamander. I also specialize in vernal pool systems where I help design, construct and survey ephemeral ponds to supplement amphibian breeding habitat.
Project Description: My research focuses on the impact of human-mediated hybridization. I explore evolutionary and ecological implications that arise from hybridization. Specifically, I am investigating the threatened California tiger salamander which has been hybridizing with an introduced salamander for the last 60 years. The resulting hybrids have presented very complex challenges to conservation and the government agencies that manage the species. I work closely with my colleagues in the FWS, CDFW and BLM agencies to provide relevant science for conservation concerns. I am very interested in science outreach and participate in many events geared towards sharing our research and experiences with the public.