Undergraduate Research Program

Gwen Ellis

Gwen in front of a leafy bushMajor: Biology(General)
Mentor: Dr. Samuel Wasser (Biology)

Contact: goellis@uw.edu

Current research project: A Comprehensive Analysis of the American Black Bear Diet Through DNA Metabarcoding


Gwen is a graduating senior in Biology. With a focus on the intersection of ecology and genetics, she has been working on wildlife conservation research in Washington for the past two years. Her current project is on using molecular techniques to discern the American black bear’s diet in Washington state and how it has been impacted by human environmental modifications and the human-wildlife-interface. She hopes that her research will help develop important conservation guidelines and inform others about their local ecosystems.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Knowing the composition of the American black bear’s diet will inform us on how human activity has influenced their reliance on atypical food sources, either in the form of prey or vegetation. This information can be used to inform environmental management and wildlife conservation guidelines in Washington.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?

I first became involved in undergraduate research at University of Washington my sophomore year when I learned about a lab that utilized molecular techniques for wildlife conservation. After having taken classes that solidified my interest in the intersection of genetics and ecology, I was excited to see that there was being research done at the University that directly fit my interests and that I could become involved in. I wanted to get involved with undergraduate research because I thought it would help me gain a deeper understanding of my academic and career path, as well as let me learn more deeply about the topics I was interested in.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
I think it is important for students to understand that their interests do not have to be set in stone for them to get involved in undergraduate research. Finding a lab whose research intrigues you is enough to start getting involved, you may find that this research is what really compels you.