Awardee: Robert Cooper, PhD Student
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
I am focused on the recent hybridization between the threatened California tiger salamander and the non-native barred tiger salamander. These hybrids have a disruptive effect on the ecosystem and present a serious threat to the native genotype. My project evaluates if manipulation of the breeding ponds can be used to promote native genes in the face of this expanding hybrid swarm. To do this I have constructed 18 semi-natural ponds in the hybrid zone, each with a specific hydroperiod (length of time the pond holds water). We believe that short hydroperiods will promote native salamanders. If this prediction is true, then reducing pond hydroperiods may slow, stop or even reverse the trend of hybridization in the wild.