I am so excited to announce that my lab was awarded a grant from the National Geographic Research and Exploration Committee for work on reconstructing the invasion route of a parasitic nest fly to the Galapagos Islands. This work is in collaboration with Dr. George Heimpel at the University of Minnesota and Charlotte Causton at the Charles Darwin Foundation.The recent introduction of Philornsi downsi now threatens the survival of many native bird species in the Galapgos, including several species of Darwin's finches. Fly larvae live in the nests of finches and consume blood from the nestlings and adult females, who sit on the nest. Our work has shown that this parasite can cause massive mortality, ranging from 60-100% of infested nestlings. Information pertaining to the source of this parasite’s introduction from the mainland to the islands and then progressively through the islands is necessary to design effective management policy and practices. We will collect flies from several mainland South American sites as well as from each of the major islands within the Galapagos archipelago. We will use a population genetics approach to describe the invasion history of P. downsi from the mainland to the Galapagos. Furthermore, we will determine the degree to which flies can move between islands by estimating gene flow. This information will inform conservation strategies aimed at reducing the prevalence of this fly on the islands, preventing future introductions, and ultimately, protecting this truly unique group of birds.
Our most recent publication in the Journal of Applied Ecology has been featured by a number of news agencies. We discuss the potential for Darwin's finches to go extinct as a result of the invasive parasitic fly, Philornis downsi. Our study uses a model to predict that extinction within the century is possible for some species of Darwin's finches in the absence of any intervention to reduce fly prevalence. It is always exciting (and a little terrifying) when our work is brought into the mainstream, but the hope is that the attention can further highlight the urgency of this problem. Links to the various news stories are provided below.
Again I'm excited to say that the Koop lab is growing. Suzanne Sussman will be joining our team to work on temperature tolerance in the faucet snail. Allison Cambra is also joining to help with snail husbandry and sequencing for our pop gen study. Welcome to the lab!
Undergraduate honors student, Kaci Dumas, has commenced her thesis project aimed at putting a fresh spin on the old adage of "reduce, reuse, recycle." Kaci is a graphic design major who will be creating a series of novel, interactive infographics to spread awareness of the various effects of plastic pollution on our planet. She recently presented her first installment at the 14th Annual Symposium on Sustainability and the Environment held at Bridgewater State University.
I am super excited to welcome two new members to the lab. Rebecca Sachtel is an undergraduate Biology major who will be joining the lab to work on the Faucet snail system. Stephanie Almeida is an undergraduate Biology major who will be joining the lab to also work on the Faucet snail system. (Pictures coming soon)