Dr. Sara Sirvent: Plant Biochemistry and Ecology

1. Biodiversity along the Pacific Coast Trail. The goal of this project is to track the population trends and distributions of hundreds of wildlife species, and their habitats, along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT). It is referred to as the PCT Mega-Transect. The PCT is a continuous hiking trail that runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border along the mountain ranges of California, Oregon, and Washington (2,650 miles long). This is also a collaborative research project with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as well as faculty from other campuses. This project is in collaboration with Dr. Michael McGrann at William Jessup University and will require the participant to hike along the Northern California PCT from I-5 to the OR border during June 15-July 31st.

The Goals and Objectives for the student are as follows:
1.  Determine specific plant species that are important to the ecology of the montane regions along the PCT.
2. Provide baseline data on the occurrence and distributions of rare and common species.
3. Contribute to both ecological theory and applied conservation science.
4. Employ survey methods and technology that are non-invasive, or minimally invasive, to wildlife and their habitats, and to the wilderness character of the PCT.

2. Aquatic Biodiversity in the Deserts of California. The desert pupfish is a rare endemic species of fish that lives only in the deserts of Southern California from the family Cyprinodontidae. It is a small fish, typically less than 7.62 cm (3 in) in length. Males are generally larger than females, and have bright-blue coloration, while females and juveniles are silvery or tan. A notable attribute of the desert pupfish is their ability to survive in environments of extreme salinity, pH, and temperature, and low oxygen content. It is important to establish minimally invasive techniques to monitor desert pupfish populations. The objective of this project is to develop a protocol for eDNA analysis quantitative enough to allow to estimate population levels.
3. Catalogue of important secondary metabolites in the phytomedicinal Goji berry. Goji, also know as the wolfberry, is the fruit of Lycium barbarum. The plant is native to China and is a woody perennial. Goji is know to produce least one phytosterol and five carotenoids, including lycopene, which is rare among berries. The students responsible for this project will optimize and HPLC method to analyze various Goji samples and investigate the effect of sample preparation (ie, freeze-drying, hot steam preparations for tea, etc.) on the levels of phytochemicals. Finally, the student will begin to tease out factors that regulation secondary metabolite production by first establishing a protocol for tissue culture.