RESEARCH EXPERIENCES FOR UNDERGRADUATES (REU)
In Systematic Biology

Fall 2012 - Spring 2013 Funded by the National Science Foundation

Conduct research in systematics and evolution, potentially resulting in a publication, with Florida Museum of Natural History researchers and curators!

“Systematics and evolution of the butterfly genus Tegosa

Introduction:

The last couple of decades have seen a dramatic increase in the use of DNA sequence data in systematics, and keen debate about the relative merits of molecular vs. morphological data. The best approach is clearly the integration of both data sources, particularly at the species-level. The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity (MGCL) at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, is one of the world's largest and most active centers for Lepidoptera taxonomic research and among the world's four most important Lepidoptera collections. The goal of this REU Supplement is to recruit and train outstanding undergraduate students in museum-based taxonomic methods. We will provide training in both morphological and molecular techniques while students uses MGCL specimens to resolve taxonomic issues in the complex Neotropical butterfly genus Tegosa.

The project:

Tegosa is a small genus of 13 Neotropical butterfly species, some of which are highly abundant. However, the species limits and identification of the ‘orange’ species are highly confused, and it is likely that cryptic, undescribed species remain to be discovered. This project will use morphological and DNA sequence data to define species, reconstruct evolutionary relationships and revise the classification of the genus.

What you will learn:

1. Systematic methods, including understanding the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, species concepts and formal description of new species (if necessary).
2. Zoological collections curation, specimen identification and databasing.
3. Comparative morphology, dissection under stereo-microscope and scientific drawing.
4. Molecular systematic methods, including DNA extraction, amplification and sequencing.
5. Analytical methods, including morphological character coding and DNA sequence alignment, and methods for inferring evolutionary trees using computer programs.
6. Potential co-authorship on a paper, if results are sufficiently conclusive.
7. Potential to present findings from the study at a scientific meeting.  

Eligibility:

Applicants must:
1) Be enrolled as an undergraduate student throughout the period of the REU (though not necessarily registered for classes).
2) Be a citizen or permanent resident of the USA.
3) Have a basic understanding of biological nomenclature, an interest in evolutionary biology and sufficient manual dexterity to handle fragile museum specimens. A proven interest in systematic biology is a distinct advantage.  

Application requirements:

1. Statement of interest in the project (less than 400 words), including general research interests, experience and professional goals, and specific interest in this project.
2. CV, including full name, current institution, major, date of first enrollment and expected graduation date, overall GPA and major GPA.

The above documents should be sent by e-mail as attachments to Dr. Keith Willmott, kwillmott@flmnh.ufl.edu, copied to Dr. Andrei Sourakov, asourakov@flmnh.ufl.edu.

3. One letter of recommendation from a faculty or staff member at your current or prior institution. This letter should be sent by e-mail directly from the referee to Dr. Keith Willmott, kwillmott@flmnh.ufl.edu, copied to Dr. Andrei Sourakov, asourakov@flmnh.ufl.edu.

Successful applicants will work in the Florida Museum of Natural History with PIs Dr. Keith Willmott and Dr. Andrei Sourakov and will receive a stipend; hours are flexible, although we hope to complete the project by the end of Spring 2013. For more information contact Keith Willmott (352 273 2012, kwillmott@flmnh.ufl.edu) or Andrei Sourakov (352 273 2013, asourakov@flmnh.ufl.edu).