Author Archives: Brad

CalTrans awards grant to Shaffer Lab

Landscape Genomics Study for California Tiger Salamander

The California Tiger Salamander (CTS) is state and federally listed species. As a result, Caltrans is required to consult with regulatory agencies about impacts of transportation projects. A major conservation issue for CTS is the ongoing hybridization with the introduced non‐native Barred Tiger Salamander (BTS). Thus, CTS recovery, in part, depends on preventing the geographical spread of such introgression.

This project will provide measurable effects of roads on the movement of pure CTS genes where undercrossings will be useful to promote movement of native genes and areas where such crossings should not be installed to inhibit the spread of non‐native BTS genes.

The main tasks that will be completed in this research are:

  • running simulations to determine how many animals per pond to sequence;
  • identifying tissue samples to examine from existing database;
  • identifying and collecting new samples from georeferenced sampling locations; and
  • collecting molecular data from all samples


NRS video highlights Shaffer Lab

UC Natural Reserve System research has laid the foundation for conserving species across the state. A prime example: UCLA professor Brad Shaffer’s work on California tiger salamanders was instrumental in protecting the upland habitats this endangered amphibian needs to survive.

Welcome visiting professor Ugur Kaya

Professor Ugur Kaya is a Turkish ecologist and herpetologist, and a Full Professor at Ege University, one of the top rated academic institutions in the country. Professor Kaya’s research centers on the ecology, population demography, and conservation of Turkish amphibians, which he has studied since his PhD. He currently is the primary collaborator on an NSF research grant with the Shaffer lab, working on species boundaries in the endangered Turkish salamander genus Lyciasalamandra. These unique animals are geographically restricted to coastal Turkey and several adjacent islands in Greece, and they have been placed in up to 10 very narrowly distributed species on the Lycian coast. In collaboration with UCLA postdoctoral researcher Peter Scott, we are collecting RADseq data on over 150 field-collected samples to redefine species in the group, and use those newly defined taxa as the basic units of conservation in Lyciasalamandra. Ugur is visiting UCLA for two months to complete this project and work with Shaffer and Scott to analyze and write up the resulting data. We welcome Ugur to Los Angeles, the lab, and UCLA.

Netherlands PhD student visits lab

Isolde van Riemsdijk is a visiting PhD student at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands working with Dr. J.W. Arntzen and Dr. B. Wielstra. Her interests lie in the processes of evolution and speciation. Her graduate research focuses on hybridization on a genomic level in amphibian species, with a main focus on moving hybrid zones. She currently studies hybridization between two species of toads, the common toad, Bufo bufo and the spined toad, Bufo spinosus in France. During her visit at the Shaffer lab, she is conducting a ddRAD (double-digest restriction associated DNA) and associated bioinformatics project to characterize this potential example of a moving hybrid zone. Previously she has worked on the genetics of the salamandrid genus Ommatotriton (banded newts). For more information, contact Isolde at

Welcome Siliang Song

Siliang Song is a summer student in the UCLA CSST program who is visiting the Shaffer Lab for ten weeks. Song will work on the phylogeny of the salamander family Ambystomatidae, including two federally endangered California species and a dozen critically endangered Mexican species, using thousands of targeted genes developed in the Shaffer lab.  As an undergraduate at Zhejiang University, China, Song worked in the Institution of Insects Science, mainly focusing on the phylogeny of Hymenoptera (wasps & bees). Interested in observing nature and admiring the diversity of lifeforms, Song plans to pursue ecology and evolutionary research in his future career, and the genomic tools he is mastering at UCLA will help him achieve those goals. Welcome to the lab, Song!

The UCLA CSST Summer Program brings outstanding third year undergraduate students, interested in PhD studies, nominated by top-tier universities in the People’s Republic of China and Japan, to conduct 10 week intensive research training with UCLA faculty mentors. This 10-week program offers emerging scholars premier research training in a cutting edge scientific environment that fosters cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Hasta la vista, Mario

Mario Colon, La Kretz Center liaison to the Shaffer Lab, is leaving UCLA to pursue a Master of Environmental Science & Management at the UCSB Bren School, where science, management, law, economics, and policy are integrated as part of an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem-solving.

Mario received his B.S. in Environmental Science from UCLA in 2013,  and has worked as an administrative assistant at the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science for the past four years.

Congratulations, Mario, and best of luck at UCSB!