Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Southern California: Dave Caron’s Laboratory
Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Davis: Ted Grosholz’s Laboratory, funded by the California Sea Grant Delta Science Fellowship (2016-18)
Ph.D. (2015) University of California, Berkeley: Nick Mills’ Laboratory
Broad Research Interests: Aquatic Ecology, Biological Control, Ecological Parasitology, Entomology, Disease Ecology, Global Change Biology, Multitrophic Interactions, and Pathology.
Current USC Post-doc Research: Please read about my newest position here
Former UC Davis Post-doc Research: I was funded for two years by the Delta Science Postdoctoral Fellowship to investigate the potential mechanisms that are hindering the current biological control of the invasive water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes, in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, California. Although two weevils, Neochetina spp., were released into the Delta in the 1980s to control the invasive water hyacinth, control outcomes have not reached desirable levels. While high densities of the more common weevil species, N. bruchi, can be found during the warmer seasons, densities are not consistently high enough year-round to result in sufficient control (Hopper et al. 2017). Collaborating with researchers at the USDA and at UC Davis, I used field surveys, spatio-temporal analyses, and tools in molecular ecology and pathology to examine: the effects of temperature on life-history performance, the abundance of pathogens in field populations, and population genetic variation of the biological control agents (Hopper et al. in prep). I found that microsporidian pathogens do not currently impact the population dynamics of weevils in the Delta, and that cooler temperatures during the winter and spring seasons is the main factor limiting the population growth rates of the biological control agents, which were originally introduced from Argentina. Through my work, I developed COI barcodes for the two weevil species (Hopper et al. 2017) and designed multiplex PCR reactions to genotype microsatellite markers for each species across multiple native and non-native populations. I confirmed the presence of hybridization between these two weevil species, and reduced genetic diversity in weevil populations in the non-native regions compared to those in the native origin (Hopper et al. in prep). Through this fellowship, I additionally had great opportunities to interact with multiple government and conservation agencies to focus on invasive species and additional critical conservation issues in the Delta.