Jennifer Brazeal (Ph D student)


My interests include the use of genetic and genomic techniques to study ecology and conservation of terrestrial wildlife.   My reserach involves both applied and basic science through two projects.

Estimating abundance of migrating black-tailed deer on their summer range through noninvasive genetic sampling

In collaboration with the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, we are using a non-invasive capture-mark and recapture approach to estimate the abundance of the migratory Pacific herd of Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) on their summer range in the El Dorado National Forest.  I am collecting fecal DNA along random 1.2-km transects throughout the Crystal Basin, and using a multiplex panel of 10 microsatellites and a sex marker to identify each sample to the individual level, and using the incidence of “recapture” within and between two annual seasons to estimate population abundance.  The overarching aim is to hone this technique for use in the future as a cost-effective means of monitoring migratory deer population abundance in this and other herds.

Genomic basis and evolutionary origins of migratory behavior in hybridizing black-tailed and mule deer

I plan to use a combination of next generation sequencing and radiotelemetry techniques to explore the genetic basis and evolutionary origins of migratory behavior in black-tailed deer and Rocky Mountain mule deer (O. h. hemionus).  To do this, I will collect tissue samples from migratory and non-migratory black-tailed deer and mule deer, which I will use to identify regions of the genome that are differentially associated with migratory individuals. I will also use radiotelemetry to track migratory and non-migratory individuals over a three year period, to measure the consistency of migratory behavior.  This project will further our understanding of the evolutionary and genetic basis of migration through comparison of “migratory genes” found in other taxa.  As an added benefit, I will be able to use the same genetic data to explore the evolutionary relationship of Columbian black-tailed deer and Rocky Mountain mule deer based on he nuclear genome and compare this to previous findings of the mitochondrial phylogenetics of these and other related cervids..