Awardee: Wilmer Amaya-Mejia
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Bio: Wilmer is currently a Ph.D. student in the Yeh Lab at UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. They received their undergraduate degree in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University and master’s degree from San Francisco State University. They worked as an animal technician where they developed molecular techniques, which are now being used to investigate ecological and evolutionary concepts. They are interested in understanding the disease ecology and eco-immunological responses of birds to address conservation and human health concerns. Through their work, Wilmer hopes to increase interest in wildlife and encourage greater diversity within science and ecology.
Project Summary: Urbanization and disease are both, independently, associated with the decline of global decline of bird populations, however their collective impact is still unclear. The dark-eyed juncos of southern California provide a valuable model system to answer this question of urban-disease ecology. We will investigate the dark-eyed juncos’ behavioral and transcriptomic responses to parasitic infections in both the urban habitats of Los Angeles and the undisturbed habitats of the Santa Monica Mountains. This will provide insight into the current impact of urbanization on disease and allow for the development of risk-assessment strategies to curb the continued decline of avian populations.