Heidi Davis serves San Diego Zoo Global as a Senior Research Coordinator in Conservation Genetics. Her primary focus is the application of molecular genetics to the conservation and management of endangered species. She uses molecular methods to assess species relationships and genetic variation in populations of endangered plants and animals. She is also involved in expanding and curating the diverse collection of biological materials in the Frozen Zoo®.
Heidi’s research projects include phylogenetic analysis of endangered Fiji iguanas to determine the most appropriate taxonomic units for conservation. She is also examining the genetic variation in translocated populations of the critically endangered Anegada iguana and is a member of the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group. Heidi collaborates with the Zoo Horticulture Department to apply DNA barcoding methods to the identification and conservation of endangered coral trees. She also partners with Recovery Ecology to study the breeding system of burrowing owls in San Diego County using genetic techniques. Heidi supports the health of zoo collection animals by providing species identification, genetic sexing, and paternity determination testing. She has determined paternity in bonobos, chimpanzees, and orangutans for ten different institutions, contributing to management and breeding efforts.
Heidi earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of California, San Diego, where she conducted a study to extract elephant DNA from non-invasive samples. A quarter spent abroad for a Tropical Biology and Conservation program in Monteverde, Costa Rica, intensified her interest in ecology and biodiversity. When she is not in the lab, Heidi enjoys helping remove invasive plants from San Diego’s unique habitats.