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PhD Student, 2011-2017; Postdoctoral Fellow, Petrov Lab; Associate Director of Genomics, Program for Conservation Genomics

Katherine Solari

I began graduate work in the Hadly Lab in 2011 and received my PhD in 2017.  My dissertation focused on the ability of pika to tolerate hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, at high elevations. Pika are small rabbit relatives (adorable) and live in cold environments, generally at high elevations or high latitudes. As climate change encroaches, some mountain-dwelling pikas are being lost from the lower-elevations of their range. I assessed the adaptive evolution of specific genes across pika species (there are at least 30) and also studied the role of changes in gene expression that can influence the ability to quickly acclimate to hypoxic, or oxygen-reduced, conditions. I conducted field work in the Himalayas, Nepal, and Sikkim India before finding an ideal site in Spiti Valley Himachal Pradesh. I also worked with the only captive population of pikas in the world, at the Minnesota Zoo, to conduct a more controlled hypoxia experiment. My research showed that different pika species have genetic adaptations allowing specialization to the general elevation range of the species; however, on a local and even on an individual scale, changes in gene expression may offer pika a mechanism for rapid acclimation. 

I subsequently completed a short postdoc with Liz in collaboration with the Gorelick lab in the Earth Systems Department. This project analyzed how size and relatedness of muskrat populations in Alberta, Canada linked to the hydrology of the delta, which has been undergoing large changes due to climate change. The work indicates a large decline in this muskrat population, even in a protected area. 

I am currently the Associate Director of Genomics in Stanford's Program for Conservation Genomics. We are working to develop genomic tools to help conservation managers monitor and track wildlife. This work has direct applications and will make a difference on the ground, a factor that has become very important to me from my time in the Hadly Lab.