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Laboratory of Holly Ernest

Beth Mendelsohn

Beth Mendelsohn

IMG_0642Beth Mendelsohn

Position: Graduated MS December 2018 with dual majors Veterinary Science and Environmental and Natural Resources /Haub School. Current Position as of 2020: Raptor Biologist with Owl Research Institute.
Project: Conservation genetics and population health of the Great Gray Owl
Education: B.A. in Biology, Reed College, 2007


Research Interests

As a conservationist, I am inspired to find solutions to reverse the negative impacts of humanity on global biodiversity. My research combines on-the-ground field ecology with molecular genetics to look at wildlife conservation from multiple perspectives. These tools together will help assess population health and identify threats to wildlife populations. The results will be directed towards effective solutions involving coexistence and outreach.

Beth letting an owl fly away from handsI focus on raptors in particular as a model study species because they often manifest ecological imbalances. Researching these birds can illuminate widespread environmental problems and lead to resolutions of complex environmental challenges. These incredible birds represent wildness, beauty and the urgency for preservation, and at the same time embody conservation successes.


Beth holding owlGreat Gray Owl Genetics: My master’s research is a population genetics study on the Great Gray Owls of Jackson Hole, WY. Great Gray Owls are increasingly vulnerable to anthropogenic development, and this population resides on the southern extent of the species’ distribution in the Rocky Mountains, making it susceptible to environmental changes. The range-edge location may affect the genetic health of the population. I am comparing their genetic structure to an isolated population of Great Grey Owls in California, and several other fragmented populations in western North America. I am assessing population differentiation, genetic diversity, inbreeding, and dispersal. The genomics results will help answer questions about the ecology and future conservation of the species.


Beth working with an owlEctoparasites: I am interested in investigating the relationship between raptor hosts and their parasites. Through a project with Raptor View Research Institute, I collect ectoparasites from Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles. We are in the process of identifying the parasite species, looking at phylogeny of host-specific parasites, and examining the correlations between parasite load and host condition.


Newts: For my undergraduate thesis, I analyzed the ecological structure of a population of Rough-skinned Newts. Recently successful habitat restoration efforts had allowed the native amphibians to re-populate a local pond. Monitoring the movements and distribution of this sensitive species throughout its lifecycle provided valuable groundwork for local conservation efforts and future sustainability of the population.