Student Profile: Elena Ortíz
Academic Advisor: Dr. Keith Willmott
"I am working on the molecular systematics of the butterfly tribe Preponini," says Elena Ortíz. "These colorful butterflies are found only in the neotropics where the highest species-richness occurs in the Amazon basin. Preponine butterflies fly high in the forest canopy and are only seen when they descend to feed on decaying organic matter."
The tribe Preponini has been the subject of much taxonomic research, but more insight into their phylogenetic relationships is needed in order to examine topics such as the origins of bright wing coloration (likely involved in sexual signaling and mimicry) and their global conservation status (currently unknown despite the fact that they are highly sought by collectors).
"My research goals are to clarify the group's taxonomy and hopefully facilitate future conservation studies on the group," Ortíz adds. "I plan to produce the first species-level molecular phylogeny for Preponini, and, using molecular sequence data, unravel certain species complexes and reveal the true potential diversity of the group."