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pipettes… keyboards… graduate

My graduate research has focused on understanding aspects of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of endemic bat populations. I pair high throughput molecular tools with next-generation sequencing technologies to gather genetic information. In some cases the information is from the bats themselves (see Bat Genomics below), and in other cases the genetic information concerns what the bats are eating (see Bat Diets).

Check out the information below for further information about each project. Feel free to contact me at devon.orourke@gmail.com if you’d like to know more details about the research.

Bat Diets

You can learn a lot from a pile of bat poop (guano). I’m interested in using guano samples to better understand the seasonal and geographic variation in the diets of bats native to New England. Understanding changes in the diversity and composition of insect species consumed by bats can greatly improve pest management strategies, inform conservation efforts, and shape land use strategies of forested areas affected by invasive pests. I spoke about the utility of this approach last year at a University of New Hampshire competition which challenged students to describe their research in three minutes or less:

We’re still in the process of wrapping up the sequencing of thousands of guano samples, and in an effort to keep everything up to date I’ll keep posting updates like this first one outlining the research in greater detail. Notably, the majority of the data has yet to be analyzed, but the figure embedded in that post represents one of the very exciting features of this molecular work – hundreds of unique types of insects were detected in just the 2015 New Hampshire survey alone; and unlike traditional microscopic analyses where an expert spends months sifting through bug parts to resolve the classification of the bug to perhaps a Family level, we are getting genus and in some case species-level resolution.

This work wouldn’t have been possible if not for the dozens of volunteers who collected the guano samples over the 2015 and 2016 summer seasons. A special thanks to all who contributed; apologies and please let me know if you aren’t listed below! Inge Seaboyer, Celeste Barr, Pete Smith, Amy O’Brien, Anya Kattef, Charles and Jeanne Hawthorne, Leslee Glidden, Katherine and Andrew Heck, Barbara Kahn, Catherine Skove, Kay Cushman, Elizabeth Smith, William Schultz, Hillary Nelson, Dave Yates and Caroline Byrne, Katherine York, Dave Erler, Sarah Boyden, David Brooks, and Carol Drummond.

Partial funding was provided by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. This work is/was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, McIntire-Stennis Project 1006866.

 

Bat Genomics
I gave a pair of talks to MA and NH state wildlife agencies regarding this work a few months ago – see this presentation for a preview of the projects related to bat genomics.

Just wrapped up my second three minute thesis competition too:

 

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