EEB Frontiers Master’s student Audra Huffmeyer has been awarded a Smithsonian Minority Award of $7,000 for a 12-week appointment. She’s also taking part in the Genome 10K.

Her funded project will be a comparison of functional olfactory receptor genes in two feline sister taxa (the clouded leopard and the Sunda clouded leopard) and two canine sister taxa (the bush dog and the maned wolf) to look at how niche partitioning has shaped sense of smell and the olfactory receptor subgenome in carnivores. Niche partitioning is the process by which natural selection drives competing species into different patterns of resource use or different niches.

In addition to her research project, Huffmeyer is training in genome science. “I have the auspicious opportunity to help with extracting DNA for genome sequencing for the Genome 10K project,” she said. “G10K aims to sequence the genomes of 10,000 vertebrate species, approximately one for every vertebrate genus. So, far I helped with the Florida panther DNA genome and next I will work on the Grey wolf DNA extraction.”

For the G10K project, Huffmeyer is working with a group of collaborators from different universities and organizations outside of U-M. The founders are Drs. Davis Haussler (UC Santa Cruz), Oliver Ryder (San Diego Zoo) and Stephen J. O'Brien (Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia).

Her primary office will be at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute at the National Zoological Park and a few days a week she will spend time at the National Museum of Natural History. Huffmeyer's advisor is Professor Liliana Cortés Ortiz.