Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar
Populations of the Hawaiian honeycreeper, a colorful bird native to Hawaii, struggle to survive due to bird malaria transmitted by non-native mosquitos. Gene-editing and de-extinction techniques could offer promising avenues for adapting the species to adversity—but how does the public feel about these interventions?
The relationship between public opinion and scientific interventions is exactly what Patrice Kohl, a doctoral student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication, is working to understand. Kohl takes an interdisciplinary look at how the public reacts to conservation efforts to prevent extinction, much like the Hawaiian honeycreeper.
Kohl was recently awarded an Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship from the National Science Foundation. IGERT funds graduate students across the country, encouraging research that fosters strong collaborative bonds across disciplines while their advisor participates in interdisciplinary activities. The UW-Madison IGERT program that Kohl is funded through, which involves her Ph.D. advisor LSC chair Dominique Brossard, focuses on novel ecosystems. While the exact definition and parameters of novel ecosystems are debated, they can generally be described as ecosystems whose historical trajectory has been influenced and changed by human intervention.