I am broadly interested in the fields of population genetics and conservation biology.
The genetics of monarch butterfly migration
From 2009 to 2011, I conducted research in the lab of Dr. Marcus Kronforst, part of the Harvard FAS Center for Systems Biology. My research focused on examining the genetic basis of migration in monarch butterflies. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are famous principally for their spectacular annual migration up through North America. However, the subspecies D. plexippus megalippe, which resides mostly in Central and South America, does not show migratory behavior. I focused on comparing these migratory and non-migratory relatives to determine the extent of their genetic divergence, and on identifying genes which may be involved in the evolution of migratory behavior.
Publications and media
- Zhan S, Zhang W, Niitepõld K, Hsu J, Haeger JF, Zalucki MP, Altizer S, de Roode JC, Reppert SM, and Kronforst MR. (2014) The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration. Nature 514: 317-321.
- "Studying Royal Migration", profile in The Harvard Crimson, October 2010
- Outreach, education vital to monarchs' survival - quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel; gave public talk and poster on monarch ecology, evolution, and genetics and the "Welcome Back Monarchs" festival at Natural Bridges State Beach
- Profiled by the California Academy of Sciences:
Genetic changes in a tuco-tuco population following environmental perturbations
Working with my advisor, Dr. Elizabeth Hadly, and collaborator Dr. Eileen Lacey, I am currently studying the impact of recent environmental perturbations, such as volcanic eruptions, on the population genetics of
the tuco-tuco, a rodent genus endemic to South America. I am focusing on a specific population of Ctenomys sociabilis,
a critically endangered species that lives in northern Patagonia, along the border of Chile and Argentina. Using genetic and genomic techniques, as well as theoretical modeling and ancient DNA, I am investigating
the changing genetic variability of this species in response to these environmental perturbations.