La Kretz Center Director awarded NSF grant

By Alison Hewitt Apr 09, 2013
Originally posted in UCLA Today

Professor Brad Shaffer received a three-year, $631,284 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Evolutionary Genetics program to track the spread of non-native tiger salamanders among the endangered native California tiger salamander population.

Shaffer is a professor at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), UCLA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and director of the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science at the IoES.

Fishing-bait salesmen imported the larger tiger salamanders from Texas and New Mexico 60 years ago, but they have competed and mated with the smaller native species, creating hybrid salamanders. For the last 25 years, the Shaffer laboratory has collected and stored tissue samples from across the range of the California tiger salamander to study the distribution and spread of non-native genes. The grant provides $570,637 to Shaffer’s lab at UCLA and $60,647 Shaffer’s co-investigator, Dr. Jarrett Johnson at Western Kentucky University.

The current research project uses cutting-edge genomic tools to characterize historical and contemporary salamander populations, and to track the spread of thousands of non-native genes. This project provides an unparalleled opportunity study the spread of genes between species in real time, and to understand how species adapt to changing environments.