Olivia Eller-Smith, Ph.D.


Education: Bachelor of Science in biology (May 2014)

Doctor of Philosophy in neuroscience from the University of Kansas

McNair Project: Functional Tests of Candidate Genes in Rapid Cold Hardening and Developmental Acclimation in Drosophila melanogaster (2012)

Mentor: Theodore Morgan, Ph.D.

Drosophila melanogaster inhabits many different environments throughout the world and has adapted to a wide range of variable temperatures. One explanation of how organisms respond to and survive in variable climates is phenotypic plasticity. My project is focused on understanding the genetic basis of phenotypic plasticity in Drosophila melanogaster by testing the effects of both developmental (long-term) and rapid (short-term) cold acclimation. Previous work using the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel has identified a set of genes that could be involved in long- and short-term acclimation processes through the use of association mapping. With these genes, I quantified long- and short- term cold acclimation in mutant and control lines. This was done by performing screens on lines reared at two different temperatures (18 and 25 C) and scoring the suvivorship after each screen. Results suggest that the gene CG32111 plays a role in short term acclimation in flies reared at 25 C while the genes Eip74Ef and CG30069 play a role in short term acclimation in flies reared at 18 C.

McNair Project: The Effect of Cooling Rate on the Rapid Cold Hardening Response of Drosophila melanogaster (2013)

Mentor: Theodore Morgan, Ph.D.

Temperature is a climatic variable that is constantly changing, creating stress for organisms. We utilize Drosophila melanogaster as a model species to study how organisms respond to this stress. One phenotypic response of interest is called rapid cold hardening (RCH). RCH is a short-term acclimation response in which an organism is exposed to a non-lethal cold temperature before being exposed to an extreme cold temperature. This non-lethal pretreatment generally improves cold survival. Some previous experiments investigating the RCH response have not done so in an ecologically relevant context. Therefore, we created an experimental environment to mimic natural conditions using thermal ramping. We compared survivorship after an extreme cold shock between flies that received a ramping pretreatment and flies that received a non-ramping pretreatment. Our results indicate that the speed of cooling does not have a significant effect on an individual’s ability to acclimate and survive extreme cold temperatures.