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Dr. Watson-Zink is driven to understand the ecological, evolutionary, and physiological contexts under which ancestrally marine animals colonized land across the history of life on Earth beginning over 300 millions years ago, and how these transitions produced the biodiversity patterns we currently observe in terrestrial environments. Her research focuses on decapod land crabs, which independently, and to varying degrees, colonized land more than 11 times in the past 66 million years. She aims to evolutionarily contextualize their many transitions, and to identify the genetic changes that allow the crabs to overcome the extraordinary adaptive challenges of life on land, while also creating novel genomic and transcriptomic resources to support future studies on the genetic underpinnings of terrestriality in this system.
Dr. Watson-Zink is currently a post-doc at Stanford University, as a joint Stanford Science Fellow/NSF PRFB Fellow. She completed myherB.S. in Biological Sciences (concentration in Ecology and Evolution) at Cornell University in 2013 with academic and research honors. While there, she studied climate science, marine biology, and coral reef biodiversity via several internships/fellowships at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center in Bali, Indonesia, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. She completed a PhD in Population Biology at UC Davis and as a Fellow of both the NSF GRFP and the NSF EAPS. As a disabled Black woman in evolution and ecology, she is also passionate about increasing, supporting, and retaining diversity of all kinds in STEM.