Molly M. McDonough-Department of Biological Sciences
Molly M. McDonough is a PhD student pursuing a degree in biology within the Department of Biological Sciences. Her specialization in molecular systematics has enabled her to travel the world in pursuit of knowledge pertaining to the evolutionary relationships of small mammals such as rodents and bats. Such work includes recent trips to the African countries of Botswana and Kenya, where she worked with the Smithsonian Institution and the Natural Science Research Laboratory of the Museum of Texas Tech University to document regional biodiversity patterns using molecular genetic approaches. Her research will assist a number of scientists from various national and international universities working in these regions to contextualize their data in terms of recent and past changes to rodent diversity in these areas. Through established collaborations with Batswana scientists, she is also helping to develop the infrastructure necessary to create a world-class Natural History division for the Botswana National Museum, which will serve as a major source of educational information on biodiversity for the Batswana people. Before attending TTU, McDonough received a Bachelor of Science degree from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. After her B.S., McDonough worked for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as the program director at the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area, where she led community demonstrations about the large colony of roosting Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) inhabiting the tunnel. Given her interest in bats, McDonough’s transition to the Master of Science program at Angelo State University in 2005, working under renowned Texas bat expert Dr. Loren Ammerman, made perfect sense. It was here at ASU, that McDonough was given opportunities to conduct research involving both fieldwork and DNA laboratory work. This project also led to her first international field experience, culminating in a two month field expedition to Ecuador to collect bats for her thesis project. The resulting publication led her straight to Texas Tech University in general, and to Dr. Robert J. Baker’s laboratory in particular. Dr. Baker’s long history of research with bats in the neotropics and in applying molecular systematics to understanding evolutionary relationships of small mammals would provide McDonough with the foundations necessary to compete in the systematic world. TTU’s Museum also provided the ultimate resource in terms of genetic and morphological samples of mammals from around the world, including Africa. This massive resource, combined with opportunities to conduct field work in various African countries helped McDonough shift her focus to studying the evolutionary relationships of African rodents. TTU’s long-history of international fieldwork and focus on mammalian systematics provided McDonough with opportunities that otherwise would have remained unrealized. In combination with fellowship support through programs such as the DBS Research Assistantship Program, AT&T Chancellor’s Scholarship, Helen Hodges Educational Charitable Trust Scholarship, J. Knox Jones Memorial Scholarship and Explorers Club Exploration Fund Grants, McDonough has been able to actively pursue her research interests across the globe. While McDonough’s particular area of focus is studying the evolutionary relationships of African small rodents through the use of morphological and molecular datasets, the diverse faculty of the DBS PhD program has allowed her to explore diverse topics including: genomics, computational biology, and quantitative evolution. Consistent hiring of new and top-notch faculty continues to improve the DBS faculty repertoire, providing students with opportunities in a wide-range of research topics and coursework. Transitioning into the age of genomics requires an integrative Department with communication among all existing and incoming faculty, and McDonough feels that DBS is doing an excellent job of creating such an environment. McDonough was recently asked to join the Texas Academy of Science Board of Directors to help them construct their 2016 strategic position statement on membership. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the TTU Association of Biologists, serving as the organizations secretary in 2010. McDonough has been working with the American Society of Mammalogists International Relations committee to help establish the African Graduate Student Research Fund, a program designed to fund independent research by African students in their home countries Upon graduation in December of 2013, McDonough plans to pursue a research position at a national museum while simultaneously continuing her investigations into the evolutionary relationships of small mammals. Her motivation and inspiration are fueled by the TTU faculty and academic community as well as by a personal passion for understanding small mammal biodiversity.