Beatriz Otero Jimenez is studying the movement of rodents in the coffee growing region of Tapachula, Mexico. Credit: Michigan News - International

EEB graduate students Marcella Nidiffer and Beatriz Otero Jimenez were awarded Grants-in-Aid of Research awards from the American Society of Mammalogists.

The award will support Nidiffer’s project on genome-wide signatures of speciation in a howler monkey hybrid zone system. “I will investigate the genome-wide patterns of genetic differentiation between hybridizing species and identify and annotate genetic regions associated with reproductive isolation,” Nidiffer said. “This will be the first project to identify genetic signatures of speciation in a natural primate hybrid zone and will provide a case study for comparison with results from well-studied model systems, like the house mouse hybrid zone.”

The award helped fund Otero Jimenez’s field work during the summer in Mexico. She collected ear tissue samples from the naked-eared deer Mouse, Peromyscus gymnotis. “This is a generalist rodent species that I will be adding to my study to compare the effects of coffee management practices on the population structure of P. gymnotis and H. desmarestianus, a forest specialist rodent species.”

Otero Jimenez is studying the movement of the rodents in the coffee growing region of Tapachula, Mexico. She wants to discover if the coffee fields assist or inhibit their migration and how the mice living in fields may differ from the forest dwellers.

Worldwide, most tropical rain forests are fragmented patches of forest separated by farm fields. This makes it challenging for organisms to move across farm fields – especially those with pesticides. If migration stops, species can inbreed and eventually become extinct.

Awards are given out annually to graduate students and upper-level undergraduates who are members of the society pursing research in mammalogy. Each received $1,500. Awardees were recognized at a ceremony at the June 2015 ASM annual meeting, in Jacksonville, Fla.


Marcella Nidiffer preparing to collect blood samples (for DNA extraction) and morphometric data from an anesthetized adult howler monkey that was released back to the wild afterward.