Invisible Imprints of Glacial Melt


In the Cordillera Vilcanota, a glacier-draped mountain chain of southern Peru, three species of frogs are simultaneously dealing with the local impacts of climate change and with an emerging infectious disease. My exploratory trip to this site allowed me to begin my dissertation research, which will examine how these pressures interact through the medium of these frogs’ population genetics. The findings of this research can shed some light on how the complex, multiple challenges faced by wildlife in a changing world may not simply affect species in an additive fashion. During the trip, I began collecting genetic data and data on infectious prevalence and intensity across the landscape, met my local collaborators, became familiar with the landscape, began forming plans for a series of environmental education workshops during my second field season, and gave a presentation on my research at a university in Cusco. My team’s fieldwork was incredibly productive, but for the next season, I plan to schedule more time to complete our itinerary. High elevation fieldwork is taxing, and I want my team to not only be productive but enjoy the opportunity to be in this beautiful place and have relaxed conversations with local people. I have come to Berkeley from a project working on designing an ecological corridor for an endangered endemic parakeet of the Ecuadorian Andes, where I spent a year collecting genetic and complementary data for the project. I have also previously conducted research on the ecological impacts of changing human pressures for Yellow-legged gulls in Spain. My previous field experience includes assisting on a scarlet macaw reintroduction project in Mexico, a kiwi translocation project in New Zealand, a project exploring the impacts of deforestation on howler monkey parasite loads in Ecuador, and a project mapping sifaka territories in Madagascar.

Emma Steigerwald
Publication date: 
August 30, 2018
Publication type: 
Student Research