red-backed salamander

Sam Weaver

Research Q & A

What are you currently working on?

I recently submitted a paper for publication that uses niche modeling and genetic data to assess levels of genetic and ecological differentiation among subspecies of the rough-footed mud turtle. It actually seems like this species might really be four species, and many of them suffer from high levels of inbreeding that wouldn’t be detected at the whole-species level. Furthermore, climate change is projected to degrade a large amount of their current suitable habitat, posing a threat to their future persistence. Now, I’m working on generating ground-level temperature data for the Southern Appalachian Mountains to explore how hybridization between species might promote adaptation to climate change, which will be the last chapter of my thesis.

How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?

I was drawn into my current field of study because I was interested in how climate change will impact evolutionary processes, particularly in how organisms might adapt to a warming planet.

Why are you focusing your work on that area?

I think this work is important because it can have useful implications for the way we conserve and manage natural populations. If we can identify at-risk populations before they become unviable, we might be able to take actions that can facilitate their persistence by increasing genetic diversity, or maybe more drastic such as assisted migration.

What will your next steps/research be?

I’ll hopefully wrap up my thesis this summer or fall, and I’m incredibly excited to see what my future brings! I hope to pursue more applied research either in genomics or forecasting species’ responses to climate change, but exactly what that will look like is currently unclear.

What would be the five-song soundtrack to your research work/What five songs do you listen to most while you work?

It’s extremely tough to pick just five songs to listen to while working, but I’ve done my best here!

  • “Song That I Heard” by Barr Brothers
  • “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes
  • “The Stable Song” by Gregory Alan Isakov
  • “September” by St. Lucia
  • “Planet Earth Theme” by Hans Zimmer

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