CABNR graduate student recognized for research and outreach

Angela Hornsby’s love for the mountainous landscape of the western United States and her desire to work closely with her advisor, associate professor, Marjorie Matocq, led her to the University of Nevada, Reno.

Angela Hornsby works as an assistant curator for the UNR's Museum of Natural History
Angela Hornsby works as an assistant curator for the UNR's Museum of Natural History

Hornsby is currently researching how animals react to climate change over time, with a specific focus on the North American Woodrat. Hornsby spoke about the scientific importance of studying woodrats' paleomiddens, which are fossilized piles of debris that are collected by the woodrats over time. “From a paleoecological perspective, paleomiddens are a great source of information, helping researchers recreate the environment in which ancestral woodrats lived,” said Hornsby.

“My project looks at extracting ancient woodrat DNA from paleomiddens, in an attempt to determine how changes over time, habitat, and climate have affected the species,” Hornsby said.

A desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida)
A desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida)

Hornsby’s interest in studying the North American woodrat began with her fascination of how certain species deal with climate change over time and also how variation is spread across the landscape.

“It’s honestly been surprising how much information we can get out of woodrats' paleomiddens,” Hornsby said. “Something that is really special about the Great Basin is that we have paleomiddens that date back 30,000 years.”

Even though Hornsby is a fulltime PhD graduate student in the Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation Biology (EECB) program, she is very busy also working as the University’s Museum of Natural History curatorial assistant. Having played a crucial role in both developing and maintaining the museum, opening the museum to the public was very import to her. By helping digitalize everything from plants, insect, avian, and mammal collections, Hornsby's efforts are helping open up the access to these unique collections for faculty and students nationwide.

Dr. Matocq is incredibly impressed with Hornsby’s growth as a student, a researcher, and as an active participant in the community.

Over the past year, Hornsby has been rewarded for her hard work and dedication by receiving the 2014 EECB Director’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Research and Education, and the Outstanding Graduate Student award from UNR’s Graduate Student Association in Spring 2014. She also won first place in the STEM section of UNR’s “Three Minute Thesis” competition.

“Angela is particularly selfmotivated,” Matocq said. “For someone at this stage of her career, she is just an incredible scholar. Diving deep into numerous topics, her expertise is impressive. She doesn't do anything partially; she really develops her skills and does everything very thoroughly.”

“Angela is just exceptionally gifted on so many fronts and it is just a pleasure to see her developing her skills and growing through her program,” Matocq said.

Story by Kate Dunlap