Charlotte Hacker

Ph.D Student
Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
Biological Sciences

Janecka Lab, Mellon Hall 236
Phone: x4624


M.S. Biology, Western Kentucky University, 2015.
B.S. Biology, Minor International Studies. Wilkes University, 2012.
Research Project

I am broadly interested in using genetic and behavioral methodologies to find effective conservation solutions for at-risk mammals living in human-dominated landscapes. Currently, my doctoral research seeks to bridge substantial knowledge gaps surrounding the threatened snow leopard (Panthera uncia). Snow leopards are large cats endemic to 12 range countries in Central Asia. They serve important ecological functions as apex predators and are recognizable flagship species to inspire conservation. Unfortunately, their elusive behavior, camouflage, and occupancy of habitats inhospitable to humans makes them difficult to study.

To circumvent these challenges, my work deploys a noninvasive approach whereby carnivore scat is collected in snow leopard habitat, DNA is then extracted from the scat, and a series of assays are completed in conjunction with Next-Generation Sequencing to determine species, sex, individual identification, dietary composition, and SNP variants associated with high-altitude adaptation.

My goals with this work are to provide reliable parameters of snow leopard populations to assist local governments, institutions, and NGOs with conservation management decisions, and to fill in current sampling gaps within our laboratory's metapopulation data in an effort to resolve species taxonomy. I also seek to use knowledge of snow leopard diet composition through time and space to assist in finding appropriate solutions for human-wildlife conflict. Lastly, I aim to use the understanding of genetic differences contributing to high-altitude adaptation to infer how snow leopards may adjust to quickly changing landscapes in the context of climate change.

Additional research interests include the application of hard science to assess the welfare of animals housed in zoological institutions as well as the attitudes and perceptions of humans towards wildlife.

  1. Hacker CE, Miller LJ, Schulte BA. 2018. Examination of space and food enrichment on the African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Anim Welf 27: 55-65.
  2. Janecka JE et al. (Hacker CE) 2017. Range-wide snow leopard phylogeography supports three subspecies. J of Heredity.
  3. Hacker CE, Miller LJ. 2016. Zoo visitor perceptions, attitudes and conservation intent after viewing African elephants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Zoo Biol 9999: 1-7.
  4. Miller LJ, Chase M, Hacker CE. 2015. A comparison of walking rates between zoo and wild elephants. J of Appl Anim Welf Sci DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2015.1137755.
  5. Hacker CE, Horback KM, Miller LJ. 2014. GPS technology as a proxy tool for determining relationships in social animals: An example with African elephants. Appl Anim Behav Sci 163: 175-182.
  • Best Oral Presentation. Duquesne University Biology Retreat. August 2018.
  • East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute Fellow. National Science Foundation. June 2017.
  • Toledo Zoo Above and Beyond Award. July 2016.
  • Heller Fellowship. San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. July 2013.
  • Global Scholar Award. Wilkes University. April 2012.
  • Student Travel Grant. The Wildlife Society. July 2018.
  • Sabin Snow Leopard Grant. Panthera. June 2018.
  • Asia Seeds Program. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. May 2018.
  • East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute. National Science Foundation. June 2017.
  • Western Kentucky University Graduate Student Grant. April 2013.