Dr Angelica Menchaca Rodriguez
My name is Angelica Menchaca. I am originally from Mexico and I finished a PhD in Biology at the University of Bristol in 2018. I have dedicated my career to the conservation of mammals and use genetic tools to answer ecological questions.
As a graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, I conducted my first research on the diet of vampire bats in a fragmented and disturbed habitat. I used genetic techniques to learn about the host preference of these bats. I then pursued a Masters degree in Conservation Biology at Columbia University where I had the opportunity to study population genetics of jaguars. I partnered with the American Museum of Natural History and the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics to apply molecular techniques and delve into the world of wildlife forensics in an effort to improve the conservation of endangered species.
My fascination for bats and the need to understand their behavior led me to take part into my current research. Bats exemplify an extraordinary group characterized by evolutionary innovation; their vast array of dietary preferences and ability to fly allowed them to conquer diverse niches. But although researchers find them intriguing, they have long been misunderstood by the public for their connection with disease transmission, urban myths and superstition. Bats are critical for the maintenance of the ecosystem's health as they provide services such as pollination, seed dispersal, pest control and translocation of nutrients.
I undertook my PhD project with the aim of learning about the genetics of bats and their relationship to the environment. The nectar feeding bats take part of a long distance migration that can go unnoticed but is crucial for their survival and for the plants that depend on them. What are the drivers of migration and why do bats undergo through this exhausting journey every year?
These are some of the questions that I am looking forward to answer. Migration is one of the most fascinating behaviours of bats and other animals; learning how it is controlled at the genetic level will help us understand the underlying mechanisms that trigger it and how changes in the environment and climate might alter it.
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