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Caitlin J. Curry

Caitlin J. Curry

Advisor: Dr. James Derr

Department of Veterinary Pathobiology
Veterinary Research Building (1197)
Room 226B

College Station , TX 77843-4467
Office Phone: (979) 862-3991


  1. BS, Psychology (Animal Behavior & Cognitive Neuroscience), minor Anthropology, University of Washington, 2006
  2. CDT, Certified Dog Trainer, Animal Behavior College, 2008


Entered the program in 2012

Research Project:

The true conservation status of the African lion has recently been in question due to lack of knowledge about genetic diversity of the species and conflicting estimates of population size dating back 50 years or more.  With claims of rapidly declining populations and an increase in illegal trade of lion parts, reliable information is needed to make accurate conservation decisions for the species.  Through the comparison of genetic parameters we can determine current and historic population size across the species’ range, and quantify the changes in lion genetic diversity that has occurred across the African subcontinent during this time period. My study proposes to determine the genetic architecture of African lions from both historic (>100 years ago) and modern populations across the traditional range states in Africa.  Historic sampling is being accomplished by isolating DNA from well-documented museum specimens.  The genetic structure of contemporary lion populations is being compiled from modern material and several recently published studies.  Genetic diversity is being examined using DNA sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear markers.

My study aims to 1) estimate historic population size of African lions across the species’ range, 2) directly compare levels of genetic diversity over time to provide a baseline for determining the genetic health of current populations; and 3) document regional differences in genetic diversity that existed in populations prior to the extensive management and translocation efforts of the last 100 years.  

Broader Impact of Research Project:

Due to multiple recent challenges to Africa lion conservation status, now is the time to use the tools of modern biotechnology to uncover the true nature of this species’ genetic health. This analysis is intended to aid policy makers in African countries with lions by suggesting a set of markers to best assess the level of genetic diversity within the population and provide a reliable estimate of the population size based on the genetic health of the population. The methods and resulting conservation programs from this project will affect a wide range of people and can be adapted to be used in other areas with a range of carnivore species. 

This study is among the first of its kind in using these technologies with this iconic wildlife species.  The goal of this study is to provide the best scientific information available to allow policy makers to make informed decisions for the long-term preservation of this species.

Research Interests:

Conservation & Population Genetics
Bioinformatics & Genomics


  • Curry CJ, White PA, Derr JN (2015) Mitochondrial Haplotype Diversity in Zambian Lions: Bridging a Gap in the Biogeography of an Iconic Species. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143827. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143827
  • Curry, Caitlin (2016) A Century of Conservation Genetics: Comparative study on the African Lion. Applied Biodiversity Science Perspectives Series No. 6. October 2016

Grants and Awards:

  • Houston Safari Club’s Dan L. Duncan Scholarship – 2015, 2016
  • The Wildlife Society Travel Award, Presented by the Texas Chapter  – 2015
  • College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student Association Travel Award – Fall 2015 
  • College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student Association Travel Award – Summer 2015 
  • Genetics Graduate Student Association Travel Award – 2014-2015 
  • College of Veterinary Medicine Trainee Grant  – 2015
  • First Place, Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student & Postdoc Research Symposium  Graduate Poster Presentation – Jan. 2015 
  • Safari Club International Large Grant – 2014
  • Boore Family Foundation Grant – 2014
  • Explorer’s Club Exploration Fund Grant – 2014
  • Dallas Safari Club Grant – 2014, 2016 
  • Alpha Phi Sigma Scholarship – 2012
  • Recipient (w CCFSoCal), Sun Catcher Award presented by EarthWorks – 2012
  • First Place, Woodland Park Zoo Behavioral Studies of Zoo Animals – Spring 2005

Memberships and Appointments:

  • African Lion Working Group – Member 2016+
  • Genetics Graduate Student Association – Website Committee 2015-2016, Vice President 2014-2015, Recruitment Officer 2013-2014, Member 2012+
  • Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) – Chapter Officer (SoCal) 2010+, Texas Chapter Representative, 2012+
  • College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student Association – Member 2013+
  • Society for Conservation Biology – Member 2014+
  • Safari Club International – Member 2014+
  • Texas Genetics Society – Member 2013+
  • Animal Behavior Society – Member 2003+
  • People to People International – Member 1998+

Conferences Attended:

  • North American Congress for Conservation Biology – 2016 
  • The Wildlife Society Conference, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – 2015
  • Plant and Animal Genome XXIII Conference, San Diego, California, USA – 2015
  • Texas Genetics Society Annual Meeting – 2015, 2013

Platform Presentations:

  • Genetics Graduate Student Association Seminar Series – “Project Introduction: Century of Conservation Genetics” – Nov 2014

Poster Presentations:

  • North American Congress of Conservation Biology – “Microsatellite Primer Redesign for Lion Genetic Analysis” – July 2016
  • The Wildlife Society Conference – "Diversity and Distribution of the Lion Across Zambia" – Oct 2015 
  • Genetics Graduate Student Association Spring Symposium  – “Genetics & Genomics: Powerful Tools for Wildlife Conservation” – Apr 2015
  • Texas Genetics Society Annual Meeting –  “Genetics & Genomics: Powerful Tools for Wildlife Conservation” – Mar 2015
  • Plant and Animal Genome XXIII Conference – “Genetics & Genomics: Powerful Tools for Wildlife Conservation” – Jan 2015
  • Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine Graduate Student & Postdoc Research Symposium – “Genetics & Genomics: Powerful Tools for Wildlife Conservation” – Jan 2015 

Course Certificates

  • Using the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation – NACCB Conference Short Couse 2016
  • High Performance Research Computing Genomics & Bioinformatics Short Course, CVM – Summer 2016
  • Effective Scientific Writing Workshop, BioScience Writers – Summer 2015, 2016
  • P.O.W.E.R. Basic Writing Studio – Spring 2016
  • Skeletal Remains DNA Extraction, UNT Health Science Center, Institute of Applied Genetics – Summer 2015
  • Effective Grant Writing Workshop, BioScience Writers – Summer 2014
  • Chemical Immobilization Course, & Wildlife Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd – Spring 2014
  • Making Global Connections: Exploring Global Issues, Texas A&M University – Fall 2013
  • Short Insert DNA Sequence Workshop, DNA Technologies Core Laboratory – Summer 2013