My Summer Experience with Fish, or “The Phylogenomics and the Evolution of North American Freshwater Fishes”

Are you interested in genetics? What about fish? (Think swimming in water, not fried on a plate.) When picking a trendy outfit, do you gravitate towards lab coats and safety goggles? Most importantly, how do you feel about identifying and amplifying fish genes while wearing the aforementioned trendy outfit?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. A bit about me: I’m Claire, an undergraduate student studying at Yale University. I’m originally from Texas, listen to R&B, and practice yoga. And I study Ecology & Evolutionary Biology! Because you learn the mechanics of how life works. A few months ago I learned about biology research opportunities organized and funded by the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Check it out if you’re ever in the area; you can never outgrow dinosaur fossils.

So here I am, doing summer research in the Near Lab at Yale thanks to the Peabody. I don’t know too much about the evolutionary history of North American freshwater fish – yet – but I know someone who does. That would be Professor Thomas Near, the driving force behind the lab.

In his own words: “North America is home to the most species rich non-tropical fauna of freshwater fishes on Earth. Investigating the mechanisms responsible for this incredible diversity can add light to some of the oldest questions in evolutionary biology. This research involves the generation of phylogenetic trees using molecular data. A natural byproduct of this work is the discovery and description of new species.”

Translation: a lot of freshwater fish are swimming around North America, and we have yet to discover them all. If you didn’t understand all of the words in Professor Near’s research description, don’t worry. I’m writing about the things that I learn over the summer to make phylogenetics research more accessible to those of us who aren’t science encyclopedias.

Please enjoy the lovely photograph below. I’ll be in lab.



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