My MSc research will explore speciation and hybridization in the Phyciodes tharos species group of butterflies. The four species in this group have different ecological associations, yet their ranges overlap in some areas across North America making their identification difficult even for experienced lepidopterists. By analyzing both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, I aim to clarify the species boundaries in this group within Alberta and identify potential patterns of introgression. I will then link these genetic patterns back to observable morphological characters and determine the most reliable characters for identification. Ultimately, I hope that my findings will demonstrate the usefulness of an integrative phylogenetic approach and contribute to improved ecological monitoring in Alberta.
Prior to beginning my MSc, I completed my BSc in environmental and conservation sciences at the University of Alberta. During my studies, I discovered new passions for entomology, museum collections, and systematics. Pursuing these interests, I completed an internship at the Smithsonian Institution in the fall of 2014. Over four months I worked on projects involving insect identification (order Diptera) and imaging of type specimens. Back at the University of Alberta, I completed another internship with Museums and Collections Services in the summer of 2015. This provided me with a broader understanding of the operation of museums and experience with various curatorial techniques. In addition to these internships, I held many field and laboratory assistant positions throughout my undergraduate degree. The skills and knowledge gained during this time will be indispensable during my graduate studies and beyond.