Leona Chemnick

Senior Researcher

Leona Chemnick serves San Diego Zoo Global as a Senior Researcher in Conservation Genetics. In this role, she oversees the work undertaken by research staff using molecular genetics techniques to support species conservation. Furthermore, she aids the division’s numerous collaborative efforts, reports genetic findings, assists on articles and publications, and helps in presenting the group’s accomplishments at various events. She also manages the banking and distribution of DNA and related biomaterials banked in the Frozen Zoo®.

Leona and the molecular genetics staff have used DNA methodology to provide species identification through sequence barcoding, microsatellite genotyping for parentage determination, and confirmation of sex with PCR testing, as well as contributing to analysis of kinship and genetic variation in key taxa. Current projects assist conservation programs for California condors, bighorn sheep, Fiji iguanas, great apes, Pacific pocket mice, and coral trees.

Leona earned bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Zoology from University of California, Berkeley, and San Diego State University, respectively. She was a research technician in immunology and virology before joining San Diego Zoo Global, where she has enjoyed sharing in the exciting advances in genetics and genomics. She enjoys sharing exciting advances in molecular genetics and genomics with others. Leona has participated in mentorship and outreach programs, including BeWISE, InternQuest, Upward Bound, and our Undergraduate Summer Student Fellowship program. She has also served as a Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair judge for over 20 years. Leona is proud of her long-time affiliation with San Diego Zoo Global, and of being able to enlighten family and friends regarding conservation research.