Awardee: Rachel Turba de Paula
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Rachel Turba was born in Brazil where she received her B.A. in Biology in 2011 from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and M.A. in Zoology in 2013 from National Museum. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, where she studies population genetics of endangered and extirpated species in southern California, as well as community change in coastal lagoons to address local conservation efforts.
Coastal lagoons in California are the numerically dominant form of coastal wetland and provide a suite of ecological services and habitats to many endangered species. These systems suffer increasing urbanization pressures, and the changing climate is likely to alter their hydrologic cycle, leading to lagoon desiccation and increased fire incidence, which fills lagoons with debris and sediment. I use environmental DNA to study coastal lagoon diversity, ecology and seasonality, including response to fire disturbance to provide a baseline for predictions of climate change impacts and management of similar events, aiding in the recovery and possibly the reintroduction of impacted