Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Sakina Isadibir L&S Sciences

Investigation of the Evolution of Pigment-Producing Genes of Theridiidae

The molecular basis of adaptation and differentiation is one of the most important, yet least understood, areas in evolutionary biology. Color polymorphic systems are a valuable, visual tool for such studies, allowing allele numbers, identities, and population frequencies to be estimated directly. In the spider family Theridiidae, discernible systems of discrete color polymorphisms have evolved independently across multiple taxa (Cotoras et al, 2017). Notably, both the Hawaiian Happy Face spider, Theridion grallator, and its fairly distant Californian relative Theridion californicum, have convergently evolved color polymorphism. For these spiders, apostatic selection maintains the spectrum of color morphs that are found within a population. This color mechanism provides an ideal system for contrasting the operation of different avenues of selection on the same color pathway between spiders within the same family, and potentially also identifying candidate genes for color expression in these spiders. This study will provide insights into the genomic underpinnings of color and natural selection under contrasting selective regimes.

Message To Sponsor

The SURF fellowship was an extremely valuable experience that allowed me to carry out my research project with so much more support than I could have ever imagined. The counsel of my lab mentors as well as the the SURF staff provided me both the tools to perform quality research and a safe space to ask for guidance. The process of reshaping my research plan with the onset of COVID-19 was an unexpected challenge that, honestly, I didn't quite know how to tackle at first. I now consider the unfortunate circumstances to have been catalysts that further pushed my growth as an independent scientist. I learned how to go back to the drawing board, develop a new plan with the resources available to me, and carry out my project despite setbacks. I gained a new skill: adaptation. Adaptation changed the way I approached problems and gave me the confidence to believe that I am capable of performing research. SURF solidified my intention to pursue further research in graduate school. To the Pergo Fund, I cannot express enough gratitude to capture how appreciative and humbled I am to have been able to participate in this fellowship. Thank you so much!
Major: Integrative Biology
Mentor: Rosemary Gillespie
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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