I joined the Evolutionary Application Lab (Kinnison Lab) in spring 2014. I moved from Wisconsin out to Maine in the dead of winter, and survived to tell the tale. Before coming to the University of Maine I earned my B.S. in Biology (2013) from Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI. I also worked at the U.S. Geological Survey in La Crosse during undergrad and continued working there for roughly 6 months before deciding to pursue a M.S. at UMaine. While at the USGS I worked with a stellar group of researchers focused on understanding the tangled knot that is environmental DNA. It was all great fun!
For my master’s thesis, I am developing an environmental DNA (eDNA) detection tool for invasive Northern Pike and additional aquatic invasive species that are of interest in Maine waterways. For my research I collect water samples from ponds, lakes, streams and rivers throughout Maine, but with a distinct focus on the Penobscot watershed. I then extract the DNA that is contained within those samples and analyze it for the presence of DNA of various target species (ie. esocids). I get to spend time both outside and in the lab and enjoy both immensely!
I design species specific qPCR primers and probes as part of the developmental process for this eDNA detection tool for the state of Maine. The enhanced specificity afforded by qPCR markers is crucial to my research due to the high genetic similarity between invasive and native species and because of the low abundance of target species DNA present in sites where invaders recently colonized or threatened species are declining.