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Meaghan Parker,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: University of Hawaii at Manoa
The GK-12 Program in Hawaii: Using the Native Biota for Science Education
URL: http://www.hawaii.edu/gk-12/evolution/

Thesis Title: Phylogenetics, Phylogeography and Evolution of Pacific Island Land Snails

College/University: University of Hawaii at Manoa

Research Advisor: Robert Cowie

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab

Research Focus
I am using four subfamilies within the Achatinellidae land snail family (endemic Pacific Island land snails) to resolve systematic and phylogeographic issues.

Description of Research
I am investigating the evolution, phylogenetics, and biogeography of the Achatinellidae, focusing on the subfamilies Pacificellinae, Tornatellininae and Tornatellidinae, which are found Pacific-wide, and the Auriculellinae, which are endemic to Hawaii. I will resolve the phylogeny of the four subfamilies within Hawaii and Pacific-wide using multiple genes. This project will complement information already published on the phylogenetics of the fifth subfamily, Achatinellinae, thereby completing a preliminary phylogenetic understanding of the evolution and biogoegraphy of the entire family. My research is focused at three levels: (1) Pacific-wide phylogenetics and biogeography, (2) detailed analysis of the Hawaiian species-level radiation(s), and (3) intra-specific phylogeographic analysis of species that remain common and widespread in Hawaii.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
As briefly described above, my own research is heavily focused on the relationships of organisms in an evolutionary framework. Typically, I work with young children ranging from grades kindergarten to third. Evolution and evolutionary relationships are difficult concepts to introduce at this level, but introducing basic relationships between plants and animals is appropriate. I work with the children on developing the basic skills that help them to understand how and why organisms are grouped together, as well as how organisms spread themselves across the earth. My favorite activity that incorporates both of these concepts is a lesson that addresses seed dispersal. I primarily use this lesson for grades kindergarten through second (modified to an appropriate level for each class). I begin by reading a book titled The Little Seedling. This book introduces how seeds are moved by wind, animals, and water. After the reading, I hand out five different types of seeds, that all have different characteristics about them: sticky, fuzzy, small, hard, etc. Each child has the opportunity to compare all of the seeds together. We first discuss what makes each seed different or similar. As the students groups the seeds by their similar characteristics, basic concepts of taxonomy are introduced. We then discuss how some shapes, sizes, or textures may help the seed to move very long distances and come up with scenarios for how each seed might move, introducing concepts of biogeography.

Profile date: July 2007
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