In memory of: Robert Wayne, 66, pioneer in conservation genetics, protecting canine puppies and other species

Distinguished Professor Robert Wayne, the acclaimed evolutionary geneticist and geneticist whose research helped explain the history and evolution of pet dogs, died on December 26 of pancreatic cancer. He was 66 years old.

Wayne has been a faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA for more than 30 years. His research has helped preserve and manage canine species around the world. Wayne and his students have also used genetic data to show that highways act as a barrier to migrating bobcats and coyotes, creating custom tunnels that allow wildlife to pass through and maintain healthy populations.

Wayne, the first to establish a conservation genetics laboratory at UCLA, helped build a foundation for modern molecular conservation genetics. In 1996, he co-authored “Molecular Genetic Methods in Conservation” based on Symposium of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2016, Wayne received a grant from the University of California President’s Office to create a consortium of researchers from six undergraduate universities to develop new conservation genome technologies to be shared with the scientific community. He has published more than 300 research papers in scientific journals during his career.

Much of his work has focused on the evolution and genetics of dogs and wolves, including the ancient dire wolf, the “golden jackal” of East Africa and the canine populations of South America. He is perhaps best known for his research on canine evolution, which showed that dogs were domesticated from gray wolves.

for him Recent research has focused on the genetic diversity of small groups such as the endangered porpoise. His lab has also worked on new methods of analyzing DNA from the environment to identify organisms that are present but difficult to detect.

Wayne was a dedicated teacher and mentor to many students. “My first encounter with Bob was 14 years ago, but I remember him vividly because he changed the course of my life,” said Jacqueline Robinson, PhD, 2017. It gave me an opportunity, and supported my scientific development as we worked on great projects together over the years.”

“He believed a lot in the abilities of his students and enabled us to rise to the challenge,” said Annabelle Bechman, Ph.D. in 2020. . “

Over the past few years, Wayne has introduced a new course that has taken students out of the classroom and into the field at the UCLA nature reserve system sites, where they have been sampling DNA from the environment and documenting their observations in online notebooks. In 2017, he received the HHMI Professors Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute along with his assistant, Professor Beth Shapiro at UC Santa Cruz, for this novel approach to teaching.

Outside of UCLA, Wayne has been a natural scientist and conservationist. He promoted wolf conservation and helped protect the habitat and species of the Santa Monica Mountains, where he lived with his wife and friend Blair Van Valkenburgh, distinguished professor and paleontologist at UCLA.

“Bob made everyone around him think bigger and bolder, letting us break out of what we found comfortable,” Kirk Lemueller, UCLA Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Human Genetics. “It made us believe in ourselves, our work, and our mission.”

“Bob was a dear friend and a touchstone for all of us,” said Thomas Smith, UCLA Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “for him His legacy will live on through his many students, postdocs, and colleagues.”

In honor of Wayne’s contributions to conservation genetics, the American Genetic Society is establishing Robert K. Wayne Scholarship and Research Fund To support graduate students whose research directly benefits threatened species.

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