$10,000 Scholarship Recipient
Port Washington, NY
Project Title: “An Analysis of the Genetic Variation of Monachus monachus and Its Implications for Conservation”______ _______ ________ ____ _______
The Mediterranean monk seal is critically endangered and genetically non-diverse due to a surge in seal mortalities over a short period of time. Emily’s study analyzed inherited portions of repeats (microsatellites) in DNA from 95 Grecian seals in order to quantify that population’s genetic variation. Primers developed for the Hawaiian monk seal were used to flag pieces of DNA for analysis. It was shown that there are two genetically distinct subpopulations rather than the six hypothesized; however, this distinction is minimal because of inbreeding and genetic drift. This study provides scientific backing for conservation efforts and suggests that governments use non-invasive methods of conservation in order to keep existing populations safe and to promote the reemergence of the species in the Mediterranean Sea.
Environmental issues can only be solved when political, social, and scientific action is taken and Emily wanted to take on the challenge of researching all three and analyzing the species’ decline from these angles. While the species does not show promise in remaining alive, the techniques learned in attempting to save it will aid in conservation efforts with many other species in the future. It is important to note that negative human-endangered animal interaction – such as seals entangling themselves in fishing lines – continues to promote their demise and the poisoning of their habitats.
Emily attends University of Chicago as a biology major with the possibility of a double major in political science and minor in English creative writing. Emily won the Beacon Hill Women’s Club Dr. Joe Tesorsiero Memorial Scholarship this year as well as being an Honorable Mention in the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair. Emily enjoys writing and was co-editor of her school’s literary-art magazine.
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