Thesis Title:
Hierarchical genetic structure of Townsend's big-eared bats in Southeast Idaho

Research Advisor:
Dr. Marjorie D. Matocq

Teacher Partner:
John Loftin

Degree Sought:
Master's of Science in Biology

University Department and/or Lab:
Department of Biological Sciences

Research Focus:
My research uses molecular techniques to examine gene flow, dispersal, and population genetic structure of Townsend's big-eared bats.

Description of Research:
Contrasting patterns of male and female-mediated gene flow can be investigated by combining data from bi-parentally and uni-parentally inherited genetic markers. Here, we report on patterns of connectivity among populations of Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) that occupy the lava tube caves of the Upper Snake River Plain of southeast Idaho. This species is rare across its distribution but locally abundant in southeast Idaho providing a unique opportunity to further our understanding of the ecology of this species through genetic analysis. We sampled 135 individuals from 15 roost sites and genotyped all individuals at 7 microsatellite loci. We also sequenced a subset of individuals at the HVII portion of the control region of the mitochondrial genome. Using the bi-parentally inherited microsatellite markers, we find high levels of genetic variation and high levels of gene flow. Additionally, we do not find a pattern of isolation by distance across our study region. In contrast to these patterns of high nuclear gene flow, the mitochondrial data reveal two distinct lineages that are geographically isolated from one another. The level of divergence between the two lineages (approximately 4%) suggests that the two areas were historically isolated and that subsequent female-mediated gene flow has not erased this signal of history. Our study suggests that this species is likely characterized by different patterns of male and female movement and has important implications for the geographic extent of management units in this system.

One example of how you integrate your research into your GK-12 experience:
I have implemented my research into the classroom in a variety of ways. The most prominent and impressive integration has been through the Molecules on the Road (MOTR) program. The is a week-long lab in which students use the very molecular techniques in the classroom that I use in my project. This allows students to experience hands-on the most cutting-edge research techniques. Additionally, I have presented professional talks to some of the classrooms so they can experience a true professional, scientific research presentation. A way that I am extending my work with GK12 past the school year is through the Biology Youth Research Program (BYRP). This program pairs high school students with graduate students to provide young students with pre-college research experiences. I have encouraged a number of the students that I work with though GK12 to apply. Consequently, two high school students will be accompanying me into the field this summer to work with these bats in their native environment.

Profile date: April 2007